The plaintiff worked for Spokane County Road Department as a Safety/Loss Manager. ?In 1998, there was a serious accident on a county road, resulting in numerous claims.?? The plaintiff was criticized for the handling of the claims by county officials in a written report and discharged. ?The plaintiff sued under section 1983 for deprivation of liberty and property without due process, and under Washington law for wrongful termination. The district court granted summary judgment to the? defendants? on? all? claims? but? the? liberty interest claim.?? ?The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal based on qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of summary judgment.?? Case law dating back more than 30 years? entitles? a? public? employee? to? a? name clearing? hearing? when? stigmatizing information regarding the reasons for the termination is disclosed to the public.? ?The court held that ?publication? occurs when the information is placed in the employee?s personnel file, if the information becomes subject to disclosure under a state Public Records Act at that point.? ?The court held 2-1 that the prior Ninth Circuit precedent, when coupled with the Washington Public Records Act, made the law clearly established, ?even ?though ?there ?was ?no ?case directly on point.?? Judge Hall dissented on the qualified? immunity? question.?? ?Cox? v.? Farnell, No. 00-35887 (2/20/04; Rawlinson; Hall, Tashima).
Washington Public Employee?s Right to Name Clearing Hearing Triggered by Placing Stigmatizing Termination Documents in Employee?s Personnel File
Feb 20, 2004