Law School Case Brief
Givens v. O'Quinn - 121 F. App'x 984 (4th Cir. 2005)
In order to state a valid claim for retaliation, a plaintiff was required to allege facts indicating that (1) he engaged in protected speech, (2) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (3) his speech was a substantial or motivating factor in the adverse employment action.
At the time of the assault, Givens was employed as a corrections officer at a supermaximum security prison. On December 22, 2000, Givens entered an office during his shift to retrieve some paperwork. As he entered the office, fellow corrections officers O'Quinn and Mullins grabbed Givens and took him to an equipment room. Givens attempted to escape, but the employee who controlled the electronic door from a central workstation had been instructed not to open it. O'Quinn and Mullins put Givens in handcuffs and leg irons. They then pulled down his pants, taped his genitals to his leg with duct tape, and photographed him. During the assault, Lieutenant Charles Janeway--O'Quinn and Mullins' supervisor and Givens' indirect supervisor--entered the room and observed what was happening but took no action. When the then-director of the Department of Corrections (DOC), Ronald Angelone, was informed of the occurrence, he ordered the pictures destroyed. Givens filed an incident report complaining about the assault with Major Tim Yates. Thereafter, Yates began an investigation of Givens in retaliation for Givens' filing of the report. The goal of this investigation was to find a basis for terminating him.
Thereafter, Givens filed the present action, alleging three claims under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983: unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment, violation of procedural due process, and violation of substantive due process. Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, which the district court granted. Plaintiff Givens filed his third amended complaint, and again, defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that Givens had failed to state a claim for retaliation. Defendants argued, in relevant part, that Givens had it alleged the violation of a constitutional right because the assault had not been committed under color of state law, and thus, his grievance was not a matter of public concern, as necessary for a retaliation claim under the First Amendment. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. Givens sought further appellate review.
Was it proper for the district court to dismiss the retaliation claims filed by Givens against the defendants?
The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that in order to state a valid claim for retaliation, Givens was required to allege facts indicating that (1) he engaged in protected speech, (2) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (3) his speech was a substantial or motivating factor in the adverse employment action. Here, Givens' speech consisted of an internal grievance complaining about the assault committed by O'Quinn and Mullins. According to the Court, a public employee’s expression of grievances concerning his own employment was not a matter of public concern. Hence, the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants was affirmed.
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