476 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 2007), 06-1874, Jeneski v. City of Worcester

Docket Nº:06-1874.
Citation:476 F.3d 14
Party Name:Linda JENESKI, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. CITY OF WORCESTER; Stephen R. Willand; Donald H. Anderson; Carlene Bull; Robert J. Hennigan, Jr.; David M. Moore; Ruth N. Bramson, Massachusetts Administrator of Human Resources, Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:January 30, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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476 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 2007)

Linda JENESKI, Plaintiff, Appellant,


CITY OF WORCESTER; Stephen R. Willand; Donald H. Anderson; Carlene Bull; Robert J. Hennigan, Jr.; David M. Moore; Ruth N. Bramson, Massachusetts Administrator of Human Resources, Defendants, Appellees.

No. 06-1874.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

January 30, 2007

Submitted Dec. 8, 2006.


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Daniel J. Shea on brief for appellant.

Janet J. McGuiggan, Assistant City Solicitor, on brief for appellees City of Worcester, Stephen R. Willand, Donald H. Anderson, Carlene Bull and David M. Moore.

Sookyoung Shin, Assistant Attorney General, Government Bureau, and Thomas F. Reilly, Attorney General of Massachusetts, on brief for appellee Ruth N. Bramson, Massachusetts Administrator of Human Resources.

Before Boudin, Chief Judge, Torruella and Lynch, Circuit Judges.

BOUDIN, Chief Judge.

Linda Jeneski, who appeals from the dismissal of her civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 (2000), was hired in 1988 by the City of Worcester, Massachusetts, to serve in a division of the city manager's office. Worcester had an executive order in place, dating from 1972, which provided that employees of the city manager's office were not subject to the civil service laws, see Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 31 (2006), leaving them as employees at will. In September 2002, Jeneski was laid off by the city.

In 2005, Jeneski brought the present action in federal district court against the city, certain of its officials and the state's Administrator of Human Resources, who is responsible for the state's civil service laws. In addition to federal civil rights claims--alleging deprivation of equal protection and due process--Jeneski asserted claims under state law based on wrongful

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discharge and other theories. She also sought class action status.

The district court dismissed the federal causes of action for failure to state a claim, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Jeneski's state law claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3) (2000). We review the dismissal of the federal claims de novo, accepting all well-pleaded facts and giving the non-movant all reasonable inferences, not including "rhetorical flourishes, including unsupported conclusions and assertions." Palmer v. Champion Mortgage, 465 F.3d 24, 25, 27 (1st Cir. 2006).

The operative 17-page second amended complaint contains a recitation of facts and grievances of which some are central to this appeal and others are not. Foremost is Jeneski's claim that from 1972 onward, Worcester attached the label of the city manager's office to a variety of city agencies and wrongfully exempted them under the 1972 city order from civil service protection. Jeneski says that the exemption was unlawful under Massachusetts state law and violated her constitutional rights.

The constitutional right principally urged by Jeneski is equal protection. The gist of this claim is that Worcester excluded a large group of employees, including Jeneski, from civil service protection otherwise required under state law. This, says Jeneski, was not only unlawful under state law but violated the Constitution by denying such employees equal treatment with others who remained protected.

If this were done in order to harm a specially protected class (e.g., a racial minority) or to burden fundamental constitutional rights (e.g., free speech), governmental authorities would have to provide a substantial or compelling justification (which one depends on the circumstances), 1 but there is no claim a specially "suspect classification" is in use or that the aim of the 1972 executive order was to curtail free speech or some other constitutionally protected right.

In her complaint, Jeneski implies that her own discharge was connected to her criticism of city administration. But the classification of which she complains was adopted long before she was hired, and she has not made a first amendment claim. Absent a suspect classification or undue burden on fundamental constitutional rights, a classification made by government actors is vulnerable under the Equal Protection Clause only if no rational justification can be imagined for its use. Hoffman

v. City of Warwick, 909 F.2d 608, 621-22 (1st Cir. 1990).

The only classification by the city or its officers is that the city by executive order exempted from civil service protection those who work for certain offices-broadly speaking, those nominally under the control of the city manager. If the city chooses to have more than ordinary trust in its city manager and wants to give him or her a free hand in personnel management, such a policy choice cannot be described as irrational.

Jeneski says that the district court was resolving inferences against her by speculating

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as to legitimate reasons for the action exempting city of Worcester employees....

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