Protests Of Quota System Part Of Corporal’s Job, And Thus Unprotected By Constitution

Jeffrey Taylor is a corporal with the Pennsylvania State Police, and is stationed at the Troop T Pocono Station. At a December 2008 staff meeting, Taylor voiced objections to the institution of what he perceived to be an illegal quota system for traffic stops. Following the meeting, Taylor sent a letter alleging the existence and illegality of the quota system to the Commissioner of the State Police. Taylor also distributed the letter to others, including an Internal Affairs investigator and to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.

Taylor later sued the State, contending that his supervisors took various actions to retaliate against him for voicing his concerns about the quota system. Taylor alleged that he was granted fewer overtime opportunities, received unfavorable employment evaluations, had unsubstantiated harassment complaints filed against him, and was placed on “limited duty.”

The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Taylor’s lawsuit. The Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006) for the proposition that speech by a public employee “pursuant to his duties as a public employee” is unprotected by the First Amendment.

The Court reasoned that “State Police policy requires an officer to report through their chain of command any violation by other officers of departmental policy, Pennsylvania law, or federal law. Taylor’s responsibility to report to his superiors departmental policies he perceives to be unlawful is thus an acknowledged part of his job. In complaining to superiors about the quota system, Taylor acted as a public employee, and not as a citizen, for First Amendment purposes. Because his speech was not protected under Garcetti, Taylor’s First Amendment retaliation claim against the Defendants fails.”

Taylor argued that the posting of the letter through the FOP “took this case outside of Garcetti.” The Court disagreed, finding that “the FOP posting cannot rescue Taylor’s claim, as Taylor has failed to point to any evidence demonstrating that the FOP posting was a substantial factor in Defendants’ allegedly retaliatory conduct. Taylor has not pointed to evidence in the record that any of the Defendants in fact saw the letter posted on the FOP Lodge wall or were otherwise aware that it had been posted there. Taylor has likewise not cited to any information in the record regarding when the letter was posted or how long it remained there. Taylor has failed to demonstrate that the posting of the letter at the FOP Lodge – and not its distribution up the chain of command – played any, let alone a substantial, role in Defendants’ alleged retaliation.”

Taylor v. Pawlowski, 2013 WL 6697873 (3d Cir. 2013).