Federal District Court Finds Skagit County Deputy Has Valid First Amendment Claim After Being Terminated Following His Support of Opposing Sheriff Candidate But Dismisses Charge Based on Unsuccessful Arbitration Case

 freedom of speechBy: Erica Shelley Nelson and Sarah Burke

In Plancich v. County of Skagit, a Skagit County deputy sheriff was discharged for abuse of authority after he participated in a traffic stop that recovered property stolen from his relatives. The deputy alleged that the investigation into this conduct was retaliation for his support of an opponent in a Sheriff’s election and filed a First Amendment claim. The Federal District Judge Robert Lasnick found that the deputy had a triable issue because the investigation and his support of the opposing candidate occurred closely together and the Department had a history of discriminatory treatment for officers who supported the losing Sheriff’s candidate. But the Court dismissed the First Amendment claim, accepting the  County’s argument that an intervening arbitration decision finding just cause for the discharge which also held that there was no retaliatory claim precluded the First Amendment lawsuit under the doctrine of “collateral estoppel.”

[Read more…]

Teachers Did Not Have Right To Privacy In Records That Did Not Contain Personal Information And Were Not Investigative

By Erica Shelley Nelson and Harrison Owens

privacyIn Predisik v. Spokane School District No. 81, the Washington State Supreme Court found that public employees did not have a right to privacy in public records that contained information relating to investigations of potential misconduct, but did not identify the specific allegations being investigated.  In their lawsuits, two public school employees sued the District to prevent the disclosure of a leave letter and spreadsheets to two media outlets who requested the materials.  The Supreme Court held that Washington law did not prevent the disclosure of the un-redacted materials, because they did not violate the employees’ privacy rights.

[Read more…]

Camden Police Officers Did Not Show Retaliation Because They Had Poor Performance And Officer Did Not Show Violation Of FMLA Rights Because He Was Not Denied Leave By Employer’s Actions

By Reba Weiss and Harrison Owens

Sick-note-large-400x266In Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 1, et al. v. City of Camden, et al., a New Jersey District Court dismissed several officers’ claims that they had been retaliated against, and one officer’s claim that his FMLA rights had been denied by the City.  In their complaint, the officers claimed that several defendants had retaliated against them or interfered with their FMLA rights after they spoke out against a “directed patrol” policy.  The District Court dismissed all of their claims because the officers failed to show that their poor performance under the policy was not the primary reason for their transfers.  The Court also found that there was no evidence that the defendants denied one of the officers his rights under the FMLA or harmed him.

[Read more…]

Washington State Supreme Court Decides Legislature Can Repeal Laws Granting Cost of Living Adjustments and Gain Sharing Benefits in PERS Pensions

By Erica Shelley Nelson and Brennen Johnson

costs and benefitsIn two linked lawsuits filed by the Washington Education Association against the Washington Department of Retirement Systems, the Washington Supreme Court determined that the State may repeal the gain sharing benefits and certain cost of living adjustments attached to pension plans of State employees. A coalition of organizations representing state employees filed the lawsuits in an effort to invalidate the legislature’s actions in 2007, and 2011, that repealed these benefits. However, the Court determined that the State was allowed to repeal the benefits because the laws that initially conferred the benefits did so gratuitously, anticipated a possible repeal, and did not bestow contract rights upon employees.

[Read more…]

State Supreme Court Holds Oral Argument on Kitsap Retroactive Insurance Case

By Jim Cline

healthcare costsAs we indicated in an earlier blog, the State Supreme Court has accepted review of the Kitsap County retroactive insurance case.  The issues in the case involve whether an employer can retroactively increase health insurance premiums and whether they may also deduct the amount needed to cover the increased premiums from the employee’s paychecks without employee consent.  Our previous blog provides a detailed review of the legal issues before the Court.

[Read more…]

New York Federal Court Holds That Corrections Officer Waived Any Right To A Pre-Termination Hearing By Signing A Last Chance Agreement

By Jordan Jones

last_chance

In Stresing v. Agostinoni, a Federal court held that a New York corrections officer (officer) waived any right to a pre-termination hearing when he signed a last chance agreement with his employer.

[Read more…]

Washington Court of Appeals finds Trial Court erred in Slapping down Lawsuit under Anti-SLAPP Statute

By Kasey Burton

slapp

In Spratt v. Toft, the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division I, held that the King County Superior Court erred in failing to consider whether or not a plaintiff is likely to prevail on his or her defamation claim before dismissing the suit under the Washington Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute.

[Read more…]

Court Holds That Teacher’s Termination File Can Be Disclosed Under The Public Records Act

By Jordan L. Jones

appleIn Martin v. Riverside Sch. Dist. No. 416, the Washington Court of Appeals, Division Three, held that: (1) a teacher’s records were not exempt from disclosure pursuant to the personal information and the investigative records exemptions of Washington’s Public Records Act (PRA), and (2) disclosure of the records did not violate the right to privacy.

[Read more…]

Religious Non-Profits Exempt from WLAD, Not a Violation of State Establishment Clause

By Kasey Burton
justice-scales-cross-cc2The Washington Supreme Court held that the religious non-profit organization exemption set forth in the Washington Law Against Discrimination’s (WLAD) definition of “employer” does not violate the state privileges and immunities clause, and does not implicate the State’s establishment clause.

[Read more…]

State Supreme Court to Directly Review Kitsap County Retroactive Insurance Issues

By Jim Cline

health servicesThe Washington State Supreme Court has indicated that it will accept “Direct Review” of Kitsap County’s appeal of the Superior Court ruling from last summer that set aside Arbitrator Howell Lankford’s retroactive imposition of health insurance premium increases in his interest arbitration decision. Direct Review bypasses the Court of Appeals and is generally limited to those cases that the Court deems to be of significant statewide impact or importance.

[Read more…]