State Workers’ Rights to Continued Employment Under 14th Amendment

The 14th Amended of the Constitution provides that no state shall deprive any person of… property without the due process. Before the state deprives someone of a protected property interest, the right to some kind of prior hearing must be provided. Regents of State Colleges v Roth (1972). Property interest is not created by the Constitution. Rather, it is created and defined by the existing rules and understandings that stem from an independent source, such as state law-rules or understandings that secure certain benefits and that support claims of entitlement to those benefits.

The Supreme Court explained that government employees can have a protected property interest in their continued employment, if they have a legitimate claim to tenure or if the terms of their employment make it clear that the employee can be fired only for cause. Perry v Sindermann, 408 US 593 (1972). Thus, such employees as assistant college professors, who are hired for a fixed one-year term and are not tenured, do not have a property interest in their job if their contract is not renewed after its expiration.

Thus, the first main step in determining whether an employee has property interest in his/her job under the 14th Amendment is asking whether the position can be terminated only for cause and/or whether it is tenured.