A federal judge this week tossed out a lawsuit filed against the District of Columbia in which a group of child care workers said they were wrongly fired when the city wanted to privatize their jobs.
In an opinion issued Monday night, Senior Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the suit, writing that its claims did not belong in a federal court. The union alleged that the District violated its members’ Fifth Amendment right to due process when it let them go. But Hogan found the case did not reach the standard of a constitutional dispute.
“Mindful of the Supreme Court’s admonition not to permit the Due Process Clause to ‘transform every tort committed by a state actor into a constitutional violation,’ this Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to state any plausible claim for relief,” Hogan wrote.
The union first sued the District in August to stop the Department of Parks and Recreation from terminating about 165 workers as part of an effort to outsource its child care services to private providers. The D.C. Council voted unanimously to stop the department from contracting out the jobs. But the department ignored the vote on grounds that they were facing a budget shortfall.
In its suit, the union claimed District officials had created the shortfall as a pretext for the firings by moving funding away from the Parks and Recreations budget without the necessary council approval.
In his opinion, Judge Hogan found that while it was possible the officials had violated District law, the firings did not meet the constitutional standard of “shocking the conscience.”
The union’s lawyer, Donald Temple of Washington’s Temple Law Offices, said he “definitely” plans to refile his suit at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
“It’s wrong,” he said. “They’re clearly privatizing. They’re clearly violating the reduction in force laws. We just thought at least there was a hook on substantive due process.”