Federal court: Government employees can’t go it alone when making due process claims

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in Office Management,Records Retention

Government employees who want to sue because they believe their right to due process has been denied must prove they belong to an identifiable class, such as one based on race or sex.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled they cannot simply claim they were singled out by their government employer for poor treatment.

Recent case: Roxanne Pignanelli was hired as a part-time drama teacher at a salary higher than her education and experience might have warranted. She was on a year-to-year contract. In her second year, she decided to run for a seat on the school board.

Apparently, someone on the school board wasn’t keen on the idea of Pignanelli as a member and told reporters to check her credentials. They did, getting her personnel records under a right-to-know law. In the end, Pignanelli wasn’t elected. Then the school system declined to renew her teaching contract.

She sued, alleging that she had been targeted for nonrenewal because someone in the administration or on the board didn’t want her around. She claimed this amounted to a Constitutional deprivation of her right to due process.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her claim. It said the law didn’t allow a “class of one” claim by public employees. Unless Pignanelli could show she was a member of some other targeted group, she couldn’t sue. (Pignanelli v. Pueblo School District, No. 07-1251, 10th Cir., 2008)

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