Ninth Circuit Upholds Right of Worker and Her Union to Proceed with Civil Rights Action

In a recent public sector case, Thomas v. County of Riverside, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a number of adverse employment actions were potentially actionable, i.e. something that could be pursued as a claim in court, if the employment actions were taken to deter speech protected by the First Amendment. 

Shortly after the employee in the Thomas case engaged in protected speech, her employer subjected her to a number of adverse acts, specifically, the employer:

  • Removed her from a community college teaching assignment;
  • Prohibited her from using paid time to travel between work sites, which forced her to use unpaid time for work travel;
  • Rescinded approval for a vacation;
  • Removed her from an unpaid position with a Uniform Committee;
  • Imposed involuntary transfers upon her; and
  • Conducted internal investigations about her. 

The employer sought to have these occurrences dismissed from consideration in the case as “trivial.”  However, the Ninth Circuit recognized that a reasonable jury could find that such actions could deter protected speech.  The Ninth Circuit has not yet reached a final ruling on the case, but it has allowed the employee to continue forward with her claims. 

For questions regarding this case or situations involving adverse employment actions, please contact your labor law counsel. 

By Anne Yen | August 25, 2014

Legal Developments