Maloney v. Sheehan

Citation453 F. Supp. 1131
Decision Date27 June 1978
Docket NumberCiv. No. H-77-93.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
PartiesRobert F. MALONEY, Jr. v. Olive SHEEHAN, Director of Manpower Planning, State of Connecticut Department of Labor, et al.


Jeffrey N. Gelfon, Farmington, Conn., for plaintiff.

Morton H. Greenblatt, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Meriden, Conn., Donald E. Wasik, Asst. Atty. Gen., Employment Security Division Labor Dept., Hartford, Conn., for defendants.


BLUMENFELD, District Judge.

This case presents the question whether a former city employee who was dismissed from a position funded under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973 "CETA" or "the Act", 29 U.S.C. §§ 801-992, without prior written notice and an opportunity to respond to charges, is entitled to a back pay remedy upon reinstatement to another CETA position.

The plaintiff claims that his dismissal by the City of Meriden, Connecticut, from a CETA position without prior written notice violated a regulation promulgated by the Secretary of the Department of Labor "the Secretary", High Unemployment Areas, Comprehensive Manpower Programs and Grants, 40 Fed.Reg. 22673, 22715 (1975) (current version at 29 C.F.R. § 98.26(a)),1 deprived him of liberty and property without due process of law, and caused injury to his reputation. This action for compensatory and punitive damages is brought under CETA and under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, against the Mayor and Director of Personnel of the City of Meriden, and against the Commissioner and Director of Manpower Planning of the Connecticut State Department of Labor, which administered the public service program under which plaintiff was employed. All defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the action; or alternatively, on the ground that the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted.2 Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (6).

For purposes of these motions, the factual allegations of the complaint must be taken as true, together with reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom in plaintiff's favor. See, e. g., Drachman v. Harvey, 453 F.2d 722, 724 (2d Cir. 1972); Murray v. City of Milford, 380 F.2d 468, 470 (2d Cir. 1967).

I. Factual Background

In December 1974, plaintiff was hired by the City of Meriden to serve as an attendance supervisor at Maloney High School. He was paid with federal funds allocated to the city by the Office of Manpower Planning of the state Department of Labor as a "prime sponsor," administering a public service employment program under Title II of CETA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 841-851.

On January 8, 1976, a high school official verbally notified plaintiff that he was being terminated from employment.3 On January 16, plaintiff wrote to the city Director of Personnel, defendant Edward Papandrea, requesting a hearing on his termination. Mr. Papandrea offered to place plaintiff in another CETA position with the city, but plaintiff declined this offer because he would have received less pay in the proposed position, and would not have utilized the counselling skills he had developed as an attendance supervisor. On January 22, plaintiff was terminated from the CETA program.

Plaintiff renewed his written request for a hearing. An investigation was conducted by a state Public Employment Specialist, who concluded that the termination procedure was proper. The city refused to provide plaintiff with a hearing, and he then requested a hearing from the state Office of Manpower Planning. A hearing was held on June 23, 1976, before Frank R. Bochniewicz, Hearings Officer, who also concluded that plaintiff had been terminated properly.

On July 15, 1976, plaintiff appealed this decision through his counsel by filing a complaint with the Acting Regional Administrator For Employment and Training of the United States Department of Labor, Luis Sepulveda. See 29 C.F.R. §§ 98.40-98.45. He contended that the following regulation, 40 Fed.Reg. 22673, 22715 (1975) (current version at 29 C.F.R. § 98.26(a)), required the city to give him prior written notice of his termination, as well as an opportunity to respond to any charges against him:

"Each prime sponsor or eligible applicant shall establish a procedure for resolving any issue arising between it (including any subgrantee or subcontractor of the prime sponsor) and a participant under any Title of the Act. Such procedures shall include an opportunity for an informal hearing, and a prompt determination of any issue which has not been resolved. When the prime sponsor or eligible applicant proposes to take an adverse action against a participant, such procedures shall also include a written notice setting forth the grounds for any adverse action proposed to be taken by the prime sponsor or eligible applicant and giving the participant an opportunity to respond."4

In the language of the regulations, the state Department of Labor was a "prime sponsor" and an "eligible applicant," see 29 U.S.C. §§ 812(a), 844(a); 40 Fed.Reg. 22673, 22683, 22684 (1975) (current version at 29 C.F.R. § 94.4(t), (oo)); the City of Meriden was a "program agent" to which the state had delegated its responsibilities, see 29 U.S.C. § 844(d)(1), (2); 40 Fed.Reg. 22673, 22684 (1975) (current version at 29 C.F.R. § 94.4(qq)); and plaintiff was a "participant," see id. (current version at 29 C.F.R. § 94.4(kk)).

Based on his review of plaintiff's file, Mr. Sepulveda concluded that the regulation had been violated. On October 4, 1976, he informed the state Department of Labor that it would be required to reinstate plaintiff to an identical or similar position with the Meriden CETA program by October 15. Plaintiff was reinstated in a position with the Meriden Department of Youth Services on October 15, 1976.

Plaintiff's appeal to the Regional Administrator had not specified the nature of the remedies that were requested. On October 18, 1976, plaintiff's counsel wrote again to Mr. Sepulveda, requesting that the city be required to provide plaintiff with back pay and other benefits lost due to his termination in January.5 On November 15, Mr. Sepulveda responded as follows:

"After this office reviewed your client's appeal of the Balance of State Connecticut Prime Sponsor decision, we concluded that according to the regulations (29 CFR 98.26) Mr. Maloney was not properly terminated. As such, we ordered his reinstatement into a position the same as or similar to the one he held at the time of his termination. Award of back wages is not mandatory in cases of wrongful termination. After careful consideration of this case we made no recommendation of back pay. If either the prime sponsor or the City of Meriden desire to award back pay to your client they may do so of their own volition, as long as non-CETA funds are used."

He told plaintiff's counsel to direct any further inquiries to the state Director of Manpower Planning. On December 3, plaintiff's counsel wrote to the Director of Manpower Planning, defendant Olive Sheehan, repeating his request for back pay. According to plaintiff, no response to this letter was ever received.

On February 16, 1977, plaintiff resigned from his position in the CETA program, effective March 1. This action was filed on February 28, 1977.

II. Jurisdiction

Plaintiff has pleaded two causes of action, one of which is said to arise from the CETA statute and regulations, and one from the Constitution. He claims that the court has subject matter jurisdiction because the matter in controversy arises under federal law and involves more than $10,000, 28 U.S.C. § 1331(a); because it arises under an Act of Congress regulating commerce, id. § 1337; and because he seeks to redress the deprivation under color of state law of a right secured by the Constitution, id. § 1343(3). Personal jurisdiction is not contested, but defendants argue that none of these statutes endows the court with jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action.

"Jurisdiction is essentially the authority conferred by Congress to decide a given type of case one way or the other. The Fair v. Kohler Die Co., 228 U.S. 22, 25 33 S.Ct. 410, 57 L.Ed. 716 (1913)." Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 538, 94 S.Ct. 1372, 1379-1380, 39 L.Ed.2d 577 (1974). The question of whether the court has jurisdiction to decide the merits of a case must not be confused with the question of whether relief can be granted:

"It is well settled that the failure to state a proper cause of action calls for a judgment on the merits and not for a dismissal for want of jurisdiction. Whether the complaint states a cause of action on which relief could be granted is a question of law and just as issues of fact it must be decided after and not before the court has assumed jurisdiction over the controversy. If the court does later exercise its jurisdiction to determine that the allegations in the complaint do not state a ground for relief, then dismissal of the case would be on the merits, not for want of jurisdiction. Swafford v. Templeton, 185 U.S. 487, 493, 494, 22 S.Ct. 783, 46 L.Ed. 1005; Binderup v. Pathe Exchange, 263 U.S. 291, 305-308, 44 S.Ct. 96, 68 L.Ed. 308." Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682, 66 S.Ct. 773, 776, 90 L.Ed. 939 (1946) (footnote omitted).

To resolve this issue, it is necessary only to consider 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3).6 Plaintiff contends that the CETA regulation conferred upon him an expectation of continued employment which was sufficient to constitute a property interest in his CETA position, and that his termination deprived him of this property right without due process of law. In addition, he argues that he was deprived of a liberty interest in pursuing his chosen occupation. A cause of action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 19837 to redress the deprivation of either liberty or property without due process. Lynch v. Household Finance Corp., 405 U.S. 538, 542-52, 92 S.Ct. 1113, 31 L.Ed.2d...

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