Victory for Abington in Whistleblower Case

Attorneys Deborah Ecker and Joseph Fair successfully defended the Town of Abington Police Department against a lawsuit brought by a police officer alleging that he had been retaliated against the Police Chief, the Deputy Chief and Lieutenant because he brought what he believed to be an unlawful traffic ticket policy to the attention of the Attorney General.  A U.S. District Court judge dismissed a police officer’s whistleblower complaint on the grounds that the police officer did  not first give unequivocal written notice to the Defendants prior to filing his complaint as required under the Massachusetts Whistleblower statute, G.L. c. 149, section 185(b). In deciding in favor of the Defendants, the Court confirmed that the Whistleblower statute affords an employee protection from retaliation for disclosing or threatening to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body an activity or policy or practice of the employer that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of the law only if the employee has first brought the activity, policy or practice in violation of law to the attention of a supervisor of the employee by written notice and has afforded the employer the opportunity to correct the activity, policy or practice.  The written notice provision of the Massachusetts Whistleblower statute has been interpreted to require the employee to give “unequivocal notice” of the questioned practice to the employee before taking the complaint to an outside authority.  While the Whistleblower Statute provides an exemption from the written notice requirement provided for disclosures for the purpose of providing evidence of what the employee reasonably believes to be a crime, the Court found that no reasonable person could believe that the traffic ticket policy complained of could constitute a bribe or could amount to a bribery scheme as Plaintiff alleged.  In addition, the Court dismissed the police officer’s retaliation claim brought under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution finding that the alleged retaliatory actions complained of by the police officer were “so trivial that [they] would not deter an ordinary employee in the exercise of his or her First Amendment rights.”

The Court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s claims on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, including Plaintiff’s claims for the violation of the Whistleblower Statute and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution finding that the Plaintiff did not suffer an adverse employment action as required to prevail on a retaliation claim under both theories of liability.