No Right To “Name-Clearing” Hearing When Employer Gives No Reason For Termination

When the Riverside County, California Sheriff’s Department terminated Coy Bradstreet, a probationary employee, it simply placed a notice of termination in his personnel file. The notice gave no reason for the termination decision.

Bradstreet and his labor organization, the Riverside Sheriff’s Association, sued the County seeking a “name-clearing” hearing under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Bradstreet’s lawsuit.

The Court found that a “name-clearing” hearing was only constitutionally necessary where the employer’s disciplinary decision imposed on the employee “a stigma or other disability that foreclosed his freedom to take advantage of other employment opportunities.” The Court concluded that “no stigma could have attached to the termination because the County listed no reason at all in the termination letter placed in Bradstreet’s employment record. The only statement made at the time of termination simply says Bradstreet was released on probation, and gives no reasons at all. There is no evidence that, at the time of Bradstreet’s termination, any statement regarding any basis for his discharge was made public.”

Riverside Sheriff’s Association v. County of Riverside, 2005 WL 668648 (9th Cir. 2005).

This article appears in the May 2005 issue