In McGunigle v. City of Quincy, a former Massachusetts police officer filed suit against the City of Quincy, Chief of Police, and Captain. In his suit, the officer alleged that he was wrongfully disciplined, and eventually terminated, by the department for making comments to local news organizations concerning violations of city dog ordinances infringing on his First Amendment Rights. The officer filed an additional claim of defamation against the Chief of Police for statements he made to the local newspaper. The district court found that the department’s interest in maintaining order and obedience of their officers in a public arena outweighed the officer’s interest in speech. The Court further found that the defamation claim failed because the statements did not rise to the level of malice.
Massachusetts District Court Finds Police Officer Has No First Amendment or Defamation Claims For Speech Concerning City’s Dog Ordinance Laws
Michigan District Court Finds Police Officer Could Claim Retaliation and First Amendment Violations After Reporting Sexual Harassment
In Jennings v. Wayne County, a Michigan police officer was able to establish a claim for retaliation after she complained about sexual harassment. The district court found that being frozen out of meetings, not receiving backup, and being stripped of her Blackberry could constitute an adverse action. The district court also found the officer had established a First Amendment claim because her complaints about the harassment involved a matter of public concern.
Alabama District Court Finds Police Officer Can Pursue Claim of Retaliation After Reporting Department Corruption
In White v. City of Athens, a former Alabama police officer alleged he was retaliated against after he was fired for reporting police corruption to the local newspaper. The City argued the officer was terminated for his improper use of police databases. The US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama sided with the officer because he had shown other officers had used the police database for similar purposes and not been disciplined, creating an inference of retaliation.
In Howell v. Town of Ball, a former police officer in Louisiana, alleged he was fired for cooperating with an FBI investigation of public corruption. The Fifth Circuit overturned the district court in finding that the officer was entitled to First Amendment protection for his cooperation.
Seventh Circuit Finds Illinois Deputy Sheriff Was Retaliated Against After Termination for Moonlighting
In Yahnke v. Kane County, an Illinois deputy sheriff was terminated after he continued to hold a second job despite being asked to discontinue the work. The deputy sheriff believed the termination was due to his potential run for Sheriff and his political affiliation. The Seventh Circuit agreed, finding the deputy sheriff was entitled to a trial.
Pennsylvania District Court Denies Qualified Immunity For Police Commissioner Who Terminated Officer After Filing a Grievance
In Rossiter v. Ramsey, a Philadelphia police officer was terminated for alleged overtime abuses and then subsequently reinstated following an arbitration hearing. After his reinstatement, the officer brought charges that he had been retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment right to associate by his police commissioner. The commissioner argued qualified immunity and moved for summary judgment.
Seventh Circuit Holds That A Milwaukee Deputy Union Vice President Failed To Prove A First Amendment Employment Retaliation Claim
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.”
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
In 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.
Ninth Circuit Finds Two San Jose Police Officers Have Triable First Amendment Claim After Speaking Out About Time Sheet Fraud
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.
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
In 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.