From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
Nov. 12 — A former Michigan gaming compliance officer fired after speaking to the media about a lawsuit he filed alleging lack of enforcement of liquor licensing laws at tribal casinos may pursue First Amendment retaliation claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Nov. 12.
Affirming the denial of qualified immunity, the court said four state officials responsible for Patrick Devlin's termination aren't shielded from his First Amendment claims because it was “clearly established” Devlin was engaging in protected speech when he was fired in July 2008.
In analyzing whether public officials are shielded from liability by qualified immunity, a court asks if the officials violated the fired employee's constitutional rights and if those rights were “clearly established” when the worker was terminated.
Both questions must be resolved in Devlin's favor, the Sixth Circuit said. Devlin's speech clearly “addressed a matter of public concern” and he spoke as a “citizen” outside the duties of his employment, bringing his speech under the First Amendment's protection, the court said.
The First Amendment retaliation claims turn on Devlin's discharge about seven weeks after he sued to compel the attorney general to enforce the liquor laws against tribal casinos in Michigan. Devlin told reporters the attorney general was “a deadbeat” when it came to enforcing the laws and gave the tribes “a free pass.” Devlin was suspended two days after the newspaper articles were published and fired after a disciplinary hearing.
The officials failed to produce evidence that Devlin's speech caused any actual disruption in the workplace, meaning they can't prevail under the balancing test in Pickering v. Board of Education of Township High School District 205, 391 U.S. 563, 1 IER Cases 8 (1968).
On remand, a district court jury must decide if Devlin's speech was a substantial or motivating factor in the state's decision to fire him, the court said.
Judges Julia Smith Gibbons, Jeffrey S. Sutton and Raymond M. Kethledge joined in the opinion.
The court previously had rejected the officials' motion to dismiss Devlin's constitutional claims.
Devlin, of Grand Rapids, Mich., represented himself. The Michigan attorney general represented the state.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/PATRICK_DEVLIN_PlaintiffAppellee_v_RICHARD_KALM_ERIC_T_BUSH_DALE_
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)