Friday, February 27, 2015

A public employee’s speech as a citizen rather than as an employee protected by the First Amendment


A public employee’s speech as a citizen rather than as an employee protected by the First Amendment
Matthews v City of New York, USCA, 2nd Circuit, Civ. 13-2915

New York City Police Officer Craig Matthews sued the City of New York alleging that the City had retaliated against him for speaking to his commanding officers about an arrest quota policy at his precinct.*

A United States District Court judge granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Matthews had spoken as a public employee and not as a citizen and thus his speech was not protected by the First Amendment.

Citing Cox v Warwick Valley Central School District, 654 F3d 267, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said that the test it applied in cases in which a plaintiff asserts a First Amendment retaliation claim requires the plaintiff to establish that:

(1) his or her speech or conduct was protected by the First Amendment;

(2) the defendant took an adverse action against him or her; and

(3) there was a causal connection between this adverse action and the protected speech.

The Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s ruling, explaining that “because Matthews’s [sic] comments on precinct policy did not fall within his official duties and because he elected a channel with a civilian analogue to pursue his complaint, he spoke as a citizen.” The court then remanded the matter for further proceeding “consistent with this opinion.”

* Although not relevant to this appeal, which was limited to the narrow question of whether Matthews spoke as a citizen or as a public employee, the alleged acts of retaliation consisted of “punitive assignments, denial of overtime and leave, separation from his career-long partner, humiliating treatment by supervisors, and negative performance evaluations.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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