Monday, August 22, 2011

Terminated probationer’s right to due process protected by the availability of a meaningful “post-deprivation” remedy


Terminated probationer’s right to due process protected by the availability of a meaningful “post-deprivation” remedy
Rivera v Community School District 9 [NYC], USDC SDNY, Justice Stein, [Not officially reported]

Anna Rivera, a probationary teacher employed by New York City's Community School District 9, was terminated.

Claiming that the district violated her right to due process rights by dismissing her without holding a pre-termination hearing and violated her First Amendment rights by terminating her in retaliation for filing a notice of claim against other employees, Rivera appealed.

Justice Stein ruled that:

1. Under New York State law, a probationary employee such as Rivera has no property interest in her job that would entitle her to due process rights; and

2. Although a probationary employee, Rivera does have a liberty interest in clearing her name from the stigma of accusations of dishonesty that entitles her to due process.

Justice Stein noted that Rivera was terminated because the superintendent of Community School District Nine concluded that Rivera cheated on standardized tests, pressured other teachers into cheating, and attempted to assault another teacher for refusing to cooperate in the cheating scheme. These allegations were disseminated to the public and repeated in letters to Rivera.

Rivera denied these charges. Because these accusations impugn Rivera's honesty, said Justice Stein, she has a liberty interest that is protected by the Due Process Clause. As to a remedy, the court said that Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not violated “so long as the state provides a meaningful post-deprivation remedy.”*

Was such a “post deprivation remedy” available to Rivera? Yes, said the court. New York's Article 78 [Article 78, Civil Practice Law and Rules] proceeding has been held to provide an adequate post-deprivation remedy in such situations.

* Courts have ruled that providing a probationary with a “name-clearing hearing” meets the requirements for a meaningful post-deprivation process.

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