Thomas v. County of Riverside

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 08-18-2014
  • Case #: 12-55470
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Chief Judge Kozinski, Circuit Judge Clifton and Senior District Judge Rakoff
  • Full Text Opinion

To survive summary judgment in a First Amendment retaliation case, evidence of materially adverse employment actions that are reasonably likely to deter protected speech must be provided.

Wendy Thomas and her labor union appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment against their “First Amendment retaliation claims.” Thomas produced “more than 30 adverse employment actions,” however the district court dismissed them as trivial, and granted summary judgment. Upon review, the Ninth Circuit found that the district court dismissed these actions as trivial when only nine were analyzed in detail. To survive summary judgment in a First Amendment retaliation case, “evidence of materially adverse employment actions that are ‘reasonably likely to deter’ protected speech” must be provided. The panel found that some of the actions dismissed by the district court presented an issue of fact for a jury because they “could deter protected speech.” These actions included actions such as: “removing Thomas from a community college teaching assignment, costing her some $9,000 per year; prohibiting Thomas from using break time to travel between work sites, thereby requiring her to use unpaid time for work travel; rescinding a previously approved vacation; and removing Thomas from an unpaid position with the Uniform Committee.” The panel determined that “there was evidence suggesting that some of these actions were taken as part of a more general campaign and hence might in context have greater materiality than when viewed in isolation.” Therefore, the panel concluded that the district court should analyze the actions more fully on remand. However, the panel also concluded that summary judgment by the district court was appropriate in two instances because no issues of fact were present. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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