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Abdur-Rahman v. Walker

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20105
Nos. No. 08-12345, (11th Cir., 05/11/2009)

The Eleventh Circuit upheld the dismissal of former county water inspectors' 42 U.S.C. §1983 and First Amendment claims against their employer for unlawfully firing them. The inspectors alleged they were fired in retaliation for reporting concerns about the counties' compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA). The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has held that the comprehensive remedies of the CWA foreclose a private right of action under §1983. In addition, the inspectors' job-related water inspection reports were not protected by the First Amendment because the inspectors did not speak as citizens. To state a claim that a government employer took disciplinary action in retaliation for constitutionally protected speech, a public employee must prove, as a threshold matter, that the employee spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern. Here, the inspectors' reports about sewer overflows concerned investigations that were performed for the purpose of fulfilling their assigned job duties.