Plaintiff Graber sued Sheriff Clarke and the County for violating his First Amendment rights to free speech and associationunder section 1983, claiming that he was suspended and "verbal[ly] assault[ed]" because he had complained behalf of his fellow union members about mandatory overtime.
After the bench trial, the District Court found that Graber failed to establish a causal connection between the adverse acts and his protected speech. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Graber v. Clarke, No. 11-1038 (Aug. 18, 2014).
The Seventh Circuit held that Graber’s protests constituted protected speech because they were made in his role as union vice-president. However, Graber failed to show that his suspension was related to those protests because record showed that the suspension was based upon an unrelated incident and Graber admitted that "he was not disciplined for [his] conduct as a union official."
Similarly, verbal "assault" was related to a different separate incident in which Graber was insubordinate to his supervisor.