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Monday, June 29, 2015

Turner v. San Francisco: First Amendment Does Not Protect Employee Complaints that Are Motivated by Self-Interest, and Employee Cannot State Claim for Wrongful Termination

In Turner v. City and County of San Francisco, ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. 6/11/15), the plaintiff, Turner, sued the City and County of San Francisco (City), alleging that it terminated him in violation of public policy after he complained that the City improperly employed him and others as temporary exempt, rather than permanent civil service, employees. The district court dismissed the case, holding that he failed to state a claim for retaliation under the First Amendment because he had not alleged facts demonstrating that he had engaged in protected speech. Turner appealed, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that Turner's complaints were not protected by the First Amendment because they did not address a "matter of public concern." 
[A]lthough Turner’s complaint “ostensibly could invoke a matter of public concern, as it discusses civil service rules prescribed by local law, . . . Plaintiff’s voiced complaint was focused on and driven by his internal grievance.” In other words, Turner’s complaints—while potentially significant in their implications—arose primarily out of concerns for his own professional advancement, and his dissatisfaction with his status as a temporary employee.
The opinion is available here.

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