The plaintiff was a commander with the Phoenix Police Department.? ?He had worked for the Department for over 30 years.? ?In 2004 the Department began an investigation into whether he had sexually harassed a fellow officer.? ?He was then transferred to another position. ?He was subsequently put on paid administrative leave until the investigation was finished. ?The officer unsuccessfully challenged the investigation findings against him. ?He was also told that the Department was going to implement a new rule permitting termination for the type of conduct in which he engaged.? ?Rather than risk being terminated and losing his health insurance benefits, he retired.?? He then filed suit, alleging deprivation of liberty and property without due process of law.
The District Court granted a judgment on the pleadings to the police department, because the officer could not make out a constructive discharge due to intolerable working conditions. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.? ?It ruled that a retirement is actionable under Section 1983 when it was caused by intolerable working conditions, or was involuntary in the sense of being coerced or made under duress. ?The plaintiff?s Complaint did not allege an involuntary retirement, and the Court found that the facts in his Complaint did not support one.?? The fact that his wife had a history of breast cancer did not make the choice the officer faced more than an ?unpleasant one.? There was no evidence that his termination was inevitable.
The Court upheld the District Court?s denial? of? leave? to? amend,? even? though? the District Court had mistakenly thought that only a constructive discharge due to intolerable working conditions was sufficient to state a claim. ??The Court? reasoned? the? plaintiff? had? never? alleged any facts from which it could be concluded that he had determined of his free will regarding the decision to retire.
Knappenberger v. City of Phoenix, 566 F.3d 936 (9th Cir. May 26, 2009) (Ikuta, Godwin, Kleinfeld)