BWO Represents Manhattan Beach Firefighters in Lawsuit against City for Violating First Amendment Rights

BWO Represents Manhattan Beach Firefighters in Lawsuit against City for Violating First Amendment Rights

This week, Brown White & Osborn and Werksman Jackson & Quinn jointly filed a federal civil rights complaint in the Central District of California alleging that the city of Manhattan Beach violated the First Amendment rights of more than a dozen firefighters for the city and their union.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Manhattan Beach’s city government retaliated against the firefighters and their firefighters’ association for classic First Amendment protected activity related to calling out the incompetent mismanagement of the fire department, including making a no confidence vote public, and passing out fliers, knocking on doors, giving media interviews, and speaking to residents about the damage that was being done to their fire department.  Lead Attorney Tom Brown stated, “It’s clear that the City and its managers violated the firefighters’ First Amendment free speech rights and retaliated against them for years trying to intimidate them.”

According to the complaint, the city of Manhattan Beach’s retaliation included baseless disciplinary proceedings against firefighters, actions that impeded public safety, and needlessly punitive terms imposed on the firefighters during contract negotiations, including ones that did not save the city money and were not demanded of other city-employee bargaining units. As one city councilmember frankly said about these contract terms: “this is about control.”

Cities cannot violate the constitutional rights of their employees.  BWO is proud to pursue the vindication of those rights for Manhattan Beach’s firefighters.  In addition to the city of Manhattan Beach, the suit also names its current City Manager and Director of Human Resources as defendants.

Brown White & Osborn has a robust First Amendment practice and has successfully represented other firefighters and their associations in other local cities for violations of their constitutional rights. You can read the complaint, which was brought under Title 42, section 1983 of the United States Code, here.