Public Employees Whose Government Employers Stigmatize Them Can Pursue A Claim

Stigmatization Claim – The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston recently held that circumstances may exist where a government employee’s termination so damages the employee’s reputation that the government violates his liberty interest protected under the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.  In such instances, the Court explained, “the Constitution requires that the employer afford the ex-employee an opportunity to dispute the stigmatizing allegations and clear his name.”

A former employee pursuing a stigmatization claim against a public employer must satisfy a 5-part test.

First, the challenged statements must be false.

Second, the challenged statements must have seriously damaged the employee’s reputation and standing in the community.

Third, the government employer must have intentionally publicized the challenged statements.

Fourth, the government employer must have made the challenged statements in conjunction with the employee’s termination.

Fifth, the government employer must have denied the employee’s post-termination request for a name-clearing hearing.

For a stigmatization claim to get to a trial in Court, however, the employee must describe the conduct giving rise to the claim with particularity in the employee’s lawsuit.  In the recent First Circuit case announcing the test for a stigmatization claim, Kando v. Rhode Island Board of Elections, the Court dismissed the stigmatization claim in part because the employee’s lawsuit did not disclose what statements were actually made.  “Short of sheer guesswork,” said the Court, “there is no way for us to glean whether the statements at issue were sufficiently stigmatizing to impact the plaintiff’s liberty interest.”

If you believe you may need representation in a civil rights matter, you should contact an experienced civil rights attorney such as Benjamin King at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C.  Attorney King can be reached at 603-224-1988 or fill out our online contact form.

 

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