Seventh Circuit Holds That A Milwaukee Deputy Union Vice President Failed To Prove A First Amendment Employment Retaliation Claim

By: Jim Cline and Jordan L. Jones

In Graber v. Clarke, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a deputy sheriff sergeant, who was also the Union Vice President, failed to prove a First Amendment employment retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the County of Milwaukee and its Sheriff. The Seventh Circuit stated that even though he had presented union complaints he had failed to “establish a causal connection between his constitutionally protected speech and an adverse employment action.”

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Mississippi District Court Finds Correction Officer Can State a Claim for First Amendment Retaliation Following Her Termination after Testifying Against Supervisors

By: Erica Shelley Nelson and Sarah Burke

barfightIn Lott v. Forrest County, a corrections officer sued the county sheriff’s department and her supervisors alleging she experienced a retaliatory transfer and was ultimately terminated following her testimony at a trial against her supervisors. A Mississippi district court found that the officer could survive a motion for summary judgment on her claim for First Amendment retaliation because her transfer and termination occurred after her testimony and because of her supervisors.

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Ninth Circuit Finds Two San Jose Police Officers Have Triable First Amendment Claim After Speaking Out About Time Sheet Fraud

timesheet picBy: Erica Shelley Nelson and Sarah Burke

In Hernandez v. City of San Jose, two police officers alleged they experienced adverse employment actions in violation of their First Amendment rights after one of the officers reported time sheet fraud. The City conceded the fraud reports were protected by the First Amendment but claimed there was no evidence that the report led to an “adverse action” against the officers. The Ninth Circuit rejected the City’s claim that was entitled to summary judgment, finding that unresolved issues existed that warranted a trial.

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Michigan African-American Officer’s Racial Discrimination Claim Barred After He Was Terminated For Fraudulently Issuing Traffic Ticket

By Erica Shelley Nelson and Harrison Owens

RacialDiscriminationPaperDollsIn Burns v. City of Saginaw, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Michigan District Court’s dismissal of an African-American police officer’s claim for retaliation against his employer after he was terminated for issuing a fraudulent ticket.  In his complaint, the officer claimed that he had been terminated in retaliation for filing a complaint with the EEOC, and that the police chief of his Department, who is white, used a racial slur against him in relation to his EEOC complaint.  The Court dismissed his claim on summary judgment on the grounds that the officer’s EEOC complaint was actually filed following the citizen complaint relating to the fraudulent ticket, a white officer had similarly been terminated for filing a false accident report, and the police chief’s alleged racial slur was hearsay.

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Maryland Volunteer Firefighter Can Sue Fire Department For Retaliation

By Erica Shelley Nelson and Brennen Johnson

maryland_firefighter_badgeIn Williams v. Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Department, the U.S. District Court in Maryland denied a Fire Department’s motion for summary judgment against a volunteer firefighter claiming that the Department retaliated against her for engaging in protected speech. Specifically, the volunteer firefighter alleged that one of her supervisors publicly berated her for filing a sexual harassment charge against him with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and that this public humiliation violated Title VII. Although the Department argued that the volunteer firefighter did not suffer any “adverse employment actions” within the meaning of Title VII, the Court determined that the public shaming was sufficient to constitute an adverse action because it might dissuade an employee from exercising her Title VII rights.

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Police Chief May Be Personally Liable for Arresting a Subordinate Officer in Retaliation for His Politics

By Erica Shelley Nelson and Brennen Johnson

schemingIn Williams v. City of Alexander, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit affirmed a decision to deny qualified immunity to an Arkansas Police Chief who allegedly had a subordinate officer arrested in retaliation for supporting the City’s mayor. Although qualified immunity usually protects public officials from personal liability for actions carried out in their official roles, the Court determined that the Chief could not assert qualified immunity for withholding exculpatory information in an arrest warrant of an officer as a means of retaliating against the officer’s political alignment.

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Police Officer Makes Plausible Claim That City Retaliated After He Won A Reverse Discrimination Case

By Erica Shelley Nelson and Brennen Johnson

corrupt mayorIn Smith v. City of Inkster, a U.S. District Court determined that a police officer stated a plausible claim against the City of Inkster, Michigan, and its Mayor and allowed the lawsuit to proceed to trial. In his lawsuit, the Officer claimed that the City retaliated against him by denying his application for disability benefits after he filed a lawsuit. After the City moved for a judgment against the Officer’s lawsuit before trial, the Court determined that the Officer had presented direct evidence supporting his claims and that he deserved to present his case at trial.

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Court Dismisses Female Firefighter’s Retaliation Claim Against the City Because She Could Not Demonstrate the City Took Adverse Employment Actions Against Her

By Erica Shelley Nelson and Brennen Johnson

dismissalIn Burns v. City of Utica, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a female firefighter’s lawsuit against the City of Utica, New York. The Firefighter claimed in her lawsuit that the City had retaliated against her for reporting an incident of sexual assault by denying her application for disability benefits. After reviewing a U.S. district court’s decision to dismiss the Firefighter’s lawsuit, the Court of Appeals determined that the dismissal was warranted where the Firefighter failed to show that any negative consequences stemming from the denial of her disability application was attributable to the City.

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Terminated New Jersey Police Officer’s First Amendment Claim Fails After Federal Court Finds Retaliation Based on Mistaken Perception of Free Speech Not Actionable

By Emily Nelson

free speechJeffrey Heffernan, a police officer in the City of Paterson, New Jersey, sued the City for retaliation after he was demoted from Detective to Patrol Officer for engaging in protected speech. Heffernan was demoted the day after other police officers observed him meeting with a Mayoral Candidate’s Campaign Manager to pick up a campaign lawn sign for his ill mother while he was off duty. However, in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, a Federal District Court dismissed Heffernan’s claims, finding that an employee cannot bring a first amendment retaliation claim based on an Employer’s mistaken perception that the Employee is engaging in political speech—there must be some evidence that the individual actually engaged in the speech for which they are retaliated against.

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As Expected, Supreme Court Acknowledges First Amendment Speech Protection for Public Employee that Testifies Pursuant to Subpoena

By Jim Cline

whistleblower1

As had been widely anticipated, the United States Supreme Court in Lane v. Franks overturned a ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that had found that a Georgia community college administrator was unprotected by the first amendment when he was retaliated against following his sworn court testimony.

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