First Amendment Retaliation Claim Properly Dismissed; Complaints of Sex Discrimination Etc. Were Not “Matters of Public Concern”

In Oliver v. Penny, 2022 WL 2165814 (2d Cir. June 16, 2022), the Second Circuit, inter alia, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation claim.

From the decision:

Oliver argues that she engaged in protected speech by reporting sex discrimination and harassment and was retaliated against for doing so. But personal grievances, such as discrimination complaints, are not matters of public concern and are “not brought within the protection of the First Amendment” simply because the grievances “could be construed broadly to implicate matters of public concern.” Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 190 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). Furthermore, the other allegations of protected speech in Oliver’s complaint were too vague and conclusory for the district court to determine if they involved matters of public concern. Oliver alleged that she “raised grave matters of public safety, public integrity, public trust, and public concern involving supervisory members and those holding leadership positions within the NYSP.” She elaborated that she submitted reports concerning “egregious safety violations, fraudulent narcotics investigations, and the mishandling of [c]onfidential [i]nformants.” However, these broad allegations did not contain enough detail to ascertain whether they involved matters of public concern, let alone that Oliver was speaking as a private citizen when she made those reports. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”).

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