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Home > Inside PASSHE > Chief Counsel > Legal Topics > Public Employment > Legislation and Case Law > Employment Cases

Employment Cases

Procedural Due Process:

Veit v. North Wales Borough, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (June 12, 2002). The court, citing, inter alia, Gilbert v. Homar, 520 U.S. 924 (1997), held that the former police chief was not deprived of due process by not having a pre-termination meeting, particularly when he and his attorney (1) attended a meeting before the Borough Council, which considered the issue of his possible termination, (2) had advance notice that the issue of his termination would be raised and considered at that meeting, and (3) failed to raise any allegation that they were prohibited from speaking or presenting evidence or argument at the hearing. "In short, [the plaintiff] and his attorney could not sit on their hands throughout this proceeding and then at a later point argue that [he] was deprived of the opportunity to have a pre-termination hearing."

Board of Regents v. Roth , U.S. Supreme Court (June 29, 1972). The Board of Regents at a state university refused to rehire an assistant professor after he taught for one academic year based on a fixed term contract. The Supreme Court held that the Constitution does not require opportunity for a hearing before the nonrenewal of a nontenured professor’s contract; unless the professor can show that he possessed a “property” interest in continued employment, despite the lack of tenure or formal contract or that the decision not to rehire the professor deprived him of an interest in “liberty.”

Perry v. Sindermann , U.S. Supreme Court (June 29, 1972). The Board of Regents for a state college system declined to renew the employment of a professor who had been employed at various state universities for 10 years under a series of one year written contracts. The Supreme Court declared that if the professor could prove that a de facto tenure system existed, he would be entitled to notice and opportunity to be heard before the Board of Regents could terminate the professor’s employment.

Free Speech:

Knight v. State of Connecticut, Department of Health, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (December 12, 2001). A nurse consultant for the State's Department of Health, who described herself as a born again Christian, provided health care services to patients at home. On one occasion, the nurse visited the home of a same sex couple, one of whom was in the end stages of AIDS. The nurse and the two men eventually began to discuss religion and the nurse said that she "experienced a strong sense of compassion for both men and a leading of the Holy Spirit" to talk to the men regarding salvation. After one of the men stated that he did not believe that he would be punished for his homosexual lifestyle, the nurse told him that "although God created us and loves us, He doesn't like the homosexual lifestyle." As a result of this conversation the men filed complaints against the Department for alleged discrimination. The Department eventually suspended the nurse for four weeks without pay for "misconduct in [her] dealings with a homosexual couple during a home visit."

In upholding the district court's decision in favor of the Department, the Second Circuit initially assumed that the nurse's speech related to a matter of public concern. It then balanced the interest of the Department in providing effective and efficient public services against the nurse's right to free speech. The court noted the fact that the nurse's job duties required a great deal of public contact and that her free speech negatively interfered in the providing of medical services. Accordingly, it held that the Department was justified in taking adverse action against the public employee in order to mitigate the negative effects of the speech. The Court also noted that the Department had legitimate concerns about violating the First Amendment's Establishment Clause because the nurse promoted a particular religious message while performing the medical services for the state.

Rankin v. McPherson , U.S. Supreme Court (June 24, 1987). A county Constable discharged a data-entry employee for remarking to a co-worker, after hearing of an attempt on the President’s life, “if they go for him again, I hope they get him.” The Supreme Court concluded that the county Constable violated the employee’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression. It based its decision on the fact that the statement constituted speech on a matter of public concern. The statement had been made in the course of a conversation addressing the policies of the President’s administration. Moreover, the county Constable failed to show that the statement interfered with the efficient functioning of the office.

Connick v. Myers , U.S. Supreme Court (April 3, 1983). District Attorney proposed to transfer an Assistant District Attorney to different office division. Assistant District Attorney expressed her discontent to supervisors and prepared a questionnaire that she distributed to other assistant district attorneys in the office concerning the transfer policy, office morale, the need for a grievance committee and whether employees felt pressured to work on political campaigns. District Attorney ultimately terminated the Assistant District Attorney for refusing to accept the transfer and that circulating the questionnaire was an act of insubordination.

In holding that the discharge of the Assistant District Attorney did not interfere with the First Amendment, the Supreme Court stated that when a public employee speaks not as a citizen commenting on matters of public concern, but instead as an employee commenting on matters only of personal interest, the courts should not interfere with the personnel decision. The courts task in these matters is to seek a balance between the interests of the employee as a citizen, in commenting on upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.

Disability:

Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, U.S. Supreme Court (June 10, 2002). An employer may refuse to hire an individual if it believes that, due to that person's disability, his or her job performance would endanger his or her health.

EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc., U.S. Supreme Court (January 15, 2002). The court allowed the EEOC to pursue both injunctive relief (an end to an on-going discriminatory practice) and "victim-specific" relief (back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement or front pay) even though the victim was not a party to the litigation and had signed a contract containing an arbitration clause.

Sherski v. Time Warner Company , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (July 9, 2001). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the employer should have provided the specific accommodation requested by the disabled employee, unless that accommodation would have presented an undue hardship to the employer.

Tice v. Centre Area Transportation Authority, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (April 23, 2001). An employer's request for a medical examination is not sufficient to establish that the employer regarded employee as disable, and thus a member of the class of persons protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employer is permitted to inquire as to whether an employee is disable or to ask about the severity of an alleged disability under the ADA and the EEOC's regulations.

Heimbach v. Lehigh Valley Plastics, et al., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (January 5, 2000)

Race, Color, Religion, Sex, or National Origin:

Abramson v. William Paterson College of New Jersey, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (August 3, 2001). The court held that a former faculty member established a prima facie case for her claims of hostile work environment, religious discrimination, and unlawful retaliation under Title VII and state law.

Bibby v. Coca Cola Bottling Company, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (August 1, 2001). The court reaffirmed that discrimination based upon sexual orientation is not actionable under Title VII.

Jones v. School District of Philadelphia, United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit (December 10, 1999)

Schurr v. Resorts International Hotel, et al. , U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit (November 12, 1999)

Age :

Kimel, et al. v. Florida Board of Regents, U.S. Supreme Court (January 11, 2000). Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does contain a clear statement of Congress' intent to abrogate the states' immunity, that abrogation exceeded Congress' authority under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment. Thus, states retain 11th Amendment immunity against causes of action brought under the ADEA.