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At will employees possess no protectable property interest in continued employment.
In October 1979 the School District appointed Dennis Goetz to the position of "cleaner." One year later School District officials became aware of a series of thefts which had been occurring at the district offices. The New York State Police were notified and a formal investigation commenced. Shortly thereafter plaintiff was arrested and charged with third degree burglary. On January 10, 1981 Goetz was suspended by the School District because of his alleged participation in these break-ins. On January 19, 1981 plaintiff, through the attorney representing him in the criminal proceedings, wrote Skoviera indicating that Goetz had been suspended without an opportunity to be heard, in violation of his constitutional rights, and requesting an opportunity to be heard. However, as a result of not receiving a written explanation from Goetz, the School District terminated his employment on January 22. No information regarding the reasons for Goetz's termination from employment was placed in his personnel file. Alleging a deprivation of property and liberty interests without due process of law, Goetz commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Windsor Central School District [School District] and four of its officials. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the school district and officials.
Did Goetz have a protected property interest in his job?
The court affirmed the dismissal of Goetz’ complaint for deprivation of his property interests, but remanded for a hearing on the alleged deprivation of his liberty interests. The court found that Goetz’ property interest in his job stemmed from either state statute or a collective bargaining agreement. The court noted that Goetz conceded that he had no statutory property interest, and determined that his collective bargaining agreement's requirement that he be notified of the reasons for his discharge did not vest him with a property interest. The court held that the mere fact that appellees had to notify Goetz of the reasons for his discharge did not change his at-will status. The court held that the question of whether Goetz was a thief could not have been resolved by a motion for summary judgment and did not resolve the factual issues of deprivation of Goetz’ liberty interests.