05 Dec 2013 in Case Notes
If a public employee reports departmental-safety concerns to his supervisor, and the employee is removed from duty for raising those concerns, does the employee have a viable First Amendment retaliation claim?
In Hagen v. City of Eugene, No. 12-35492 (Dec. 3, 2013)
, the Ninth Circuit ruled that a public employee did not have a viable First Amendment claim under the particular circumstances there. The court ruled that, viewing all the evidence in the light most favorable to the employee, he was speaking as a public employee, not a private citizen.
The case involved a City police officer, Brian Hagen, who noticed that members of his SWAT team were often firing their weapons accidentally and negigently. Hagen tried to make his concerns about the team "as public as possible" by sending e-mails and raising the issue in meetings. Eventually, Hagen was removed from the K-9 team.
Hagen claimed that the City and senior officers had retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights.