909 F.2d 608 (1st Cir. 1990), 89-2067, Hoffman v. City of Warwick

Docket Nº:89-2067, 89-2068.
Citation:909 F.2d 608
Party Name:Frank HOFFMAN, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. CITY OF WARWICK, et al., Defendants, Appellees. Renauld LANGLOIS, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. CITY OF EAST PROVIDENCE, et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:July 26, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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Page 608

909 F.2d 608 (1st Cir. 1990)

Frank HOFFMAN, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,

v.

CITY OF WARWICK, et al., Defendants, Appellees.

Renauld LANGLOIS, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,

v.

CITY OF EAST PROVIDENCE, et al., Defendants, Appellees.

Nos. 89-2067, 89-2068.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 26, 1990

Heard May 11, 1990.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Ina P. Schiff, for plaintiffs, appellants.

William J. Conley, for defendant, appellee City of East Providence.

Dennis S. Baluch with whom Baluch, Mahoney & Gianfrancesco was on brief, for defendant, appellee City of Warwick.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, ROSENN, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and CAMPBELL, Circuit Judge.

LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Circuit Judge.

This is a consolidated appeal from the dismissal of two class actions brought in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. Plaintiffs, military veterans employed by the Cities of East Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island, brought these actions against their employers and state and city officials. The complaints allege that the defendants' failure to properly administer a Rhode Island statute, providing for seniority credits for certain veterans, and the retroactive repeal of that statute, violated plaintiffs' rights under the federal Constitution. Invoking 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, plaintiffs seek damages, declaratory, and injunctive relief. The district court granted the defendants' motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. We affirm.

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BACKGROUND

Since this is an appeal from a dismissal for failure to state a claim, we accept the facts as stated in plaintiffs' complaints, drawing all reasonable inferences in their favor. See, e.g., Chongris v. Board of Appeals, 811 F.2d 36, 37 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 483 U.S. 1021, 107 S.Ct. 3266, 97 L.Ed.2d 765 (1987).

I. The Rhode Island Veterans Seniority Statutes

In 1945, the Rhode Island legislature adopted R.I.Gen.Laws Secs. 30-21-2 and 30-21-3, providing for enhanced seniority in employment for returning war veterans. Section 30-21-2 provides:

Any member of the armed forces of the United States or any citizen of the United States who served in the armed forces of the United Nations during World War II shall, upon his reemployment by a prior employer within one year after his honorable discharge from said forces, upon proper proof of his service and the length thereof, be given by such employer in addition to the seniority rights he had when he left said employment, prior to his joining the armed forces, additional seniority rights equal to the time he served in said forces.

R.I.Gen.Laws Sec. 30-21-2 ("Section 30-21-2"). Section 30-21-3 provides:

Seniority in new employment--Any member of the armed forces of the United States or any citizen of the United States who served in the armed forces of the United Nations during World War II shall, upon proper proof of his service and the length thereof, upon applying for employment within one year after his honorable discharge from said forces, shall [sic] possess and be given credit for seniority rights equal to the time he served in said forces.

R.I.Gen.Laws Sec. 30-21-3 ("Section 30-21-3").

The legislature also adopted R.I.Gen.Laws Sec. 30-21-7, which provides that "Any one [sic] knowingly violating [Section 30-21-2 or 30-21-3] shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars." Later, the legislature extended all Rhode Island statutes "granting benefits or privileges to veterans" to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as veterans of any other "campaign or war, declared or undeclared," in which the United States Armed Forces engages. See R.I.Gen.Laws Sec. 30-22-3.

Since the adoption of Sections 30-21-2 and 30-21-3, plaintiffs say, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and other state officials have not enforced Section 30-21-3, granting seniority credit to veterans securing new employment. However, the State has enforced Section 30-21-2, granting seniority to veterans returning to prior employment. Likewise, municipal employers, including the defendants, have not granted enhanced seniority to newly-employed veterans under Section 30-21-3, but have granted enhanced seniority to re-employed veterans under Section 30-21-2. State and municipal officials, including the defendants, have failed to inform, and have misled, newly-employed veterans about their rights to seniority credit under Section 30-21-3. In contrast, plaintiffs allege, state officials have provided re-employed veterans with information concerning their rights to seniority credit under Section 30-21-2.

In June 1985, allegedly in response to the fact that municipal employers in Rhode Island were facing a plethora of requests for enhanced seniority from veterans who had recently discovered Section 30-21-3, the Rhode Island legislature repealed Section 30-21-3, giving the repeal retroactive effect. The Repeal Statute provides:

SECTION 1. Section 30-21-3 ... is hereby repealed in its entirety.

The provisions of this article are deemed to be severable and the invalidation of any particular provision or section hereof shall not be deemed to affect the validity of any other provisions or sections, all of which are deemed to be independent.

SECTION 2. This article shall take effect upon passage and shall be given retroactive effect.

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R.I.Pub.Law ch. 181, Sec. 64 ("the Repeal Statute"). 1 Section 30-21-2, providing seniority credit for re-employed veterans, was left in effect.

II. Specific Allegations Concerning Plaintiffs Hoffman and Langlois

Plaintiff Hoffman served on active duty in the United States Air Force, during time of conflict from May 1972 to November 15, 1974, when he was honorably discharged. He applied for employment as a firefighter with the City of Warwick in December 1974, and at that time presented to the City proof of his military service and his honorable discharge. Hoffman's application was accepted, and on March 3, 1975, for the first time, he became an employee of the City of Warwick.

Langlois served on active duty in the United States Army during time of conflict from June 1964 to June 24, 1967, when he was honorably discharged. That year, he applied for employment with the City of East Providence, presenting proof of his military service and his honorable discharge. He was first employed by East Providence, as a police officer, on December 29, 1967.

At the time plaintiffs were hired by defendants Warwick and East Providence (the "Cities"), they were unaware of their right to seniority credit under Section 30-21-3. The Cities did not grant them seniority credit for their time spent in the service, either upon the commencement of their employment or thereafter. Neither the Cities nor any state official ever informed plaintiffs that they had any right to enhanced seniority under Section 30-21-3. Instead, veterans who had obtained new employment after leaving the service were led to believe that they had no rights to credit for their time in the service, other than a limited right to purchase certain retirement system credits.

In 1984, plaintiffs first became aware of the right to seniority credit extended to newly-employed veterans under Section 30-21-3. Shortly thereafter, plaintiffs requested their municipal employers to grant them enhanced seniority pursuant to Section 30-21-3.

The City of Warwick declined Hoffman's request, informing him that Section 30-21-3 provided no special rights to Hoffman or other veterans who obtained new employment after leaving the service. Hoffman then filed a grievance with the firefighters union, seeking to compel the City of Warwick to grant him seniority credit. The grievance was presented to the Warwick Board of Public Safety, which, for the most part, denied Hoffman's request for enhanced seniority, in July 1985. The Board did, however, allow Hoffman enhanced seniority with respect to selection of assignment, vacation schedule, and other non-monetary benefits. It refused to grant him enhanced seniority with respect to salary or any other monetary benefit. In August 1985, the Board rescinded Hoffman's limited grant of enhanced seniority, relying on the repeal of Section 30-21-3.

In response to Langlois's and others' requests for seniority credit under Section 30-21-3, the City of East Providence acknowledged that these employees satisfied the criteria of Section 30-21-3, and calculated certain benefits that would be due each Section 30-21-3 claimant. However, East Providence never conferred these benefits on Langlois or the other claimants. In June 1985, after enactment of the Repeal Statute, East Providence denied the requests for enhanced seniority relying on the Repeal Statute.

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III. Proceedings

In the Fall of 1985, the plaintiffs brought these actions under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. 2 Hoffman brought his complaint "individually and on behalf of all other [similarly situated] employees, retired employees and former employees of the City of Warwick," naming as defendants the City of Warwick and various Warwick officials. Langlois brought his complaint "individually and on behalf of all other [similarly situated] employees, retired employees and former employees of the City of East Providence," 3 naming the City of East Providence as defendant. 4 The complaints allege that the Repeal Statute violated plaintiffs' federal constitutional rights under the Contract Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. Additionally, plaintiffs allege that the defendants' failure to inform them of their...

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