(CN) – Officers at the Los Angeles County Office of Public Safety are not immune from a sergeant’s claim that he was denied promotion for reporting misconduct within his department, the 9th Circuit ruled.
Richard Robinson said he was retaliated against for speaking out and filing reports about co-worker conduct between 2002 and 2006. He reported that a fellow officer allegedly worked for an outside employer while on the clock, officers appeared to be drinking on the job and may have used excessive force, and some officers had potentially anti-Semitic tattoos.
The defendants sought summary judgment, claiming Robinson’s reports were not protected speech because they were made as part of his professional duties, or because he failed to file reports through the chain of command.
The district court and the federal appeals court in San Francisco agreed that Robinson’s complaints were protected “as a matter of public concern.”
“Although defendants are free to argue at trial that they would have taken the same adverse employment actions against Robinson regardless of speech,” Judge Hawkins wrote, “Robinson has adequately alleged that the ‘chain of command’ policy was used as a pretext and that the adverse actions against him occurred because of the content of his protected speech, not the manner in which he filed the complaints.”