Las Vegas POA

Probationary Employee Not Entitled To Details Of Basis For Termination

Written on 04/08/2021
Will Aitchison

James Fermin was hired by the Law­rence Police Department in Massachusetts in April 2016. After completion of the police academy, Fermin was sworn in as a full-time officer on October 14, 2016. Fermin was on probationary status until October 14, 2017.

On August 2, 2017, Mayor Daniel Rivera gave Fermin a written notice of termination. The termination letter, which was effective immediately, stated that “a number of issues have arisen during your field training concerning your judgment and conduct prompting the City to take this action.” Fermin sued, contending that the termination letter failed to include “in detail the particulars” of the reasons for his termination. A state appeals court rejected the lawsuit.

The Court reasoned that “unlike a tenured employee with a property interest in their employment, a person on proba­tion understands that he is in a status of experimental testing which implies no com­mitment for continuance of employment. Indeed, when evaluating the sufficiency of a probationary employee’s termination no­tice, we must remember to take care not to hobble the employer unduly in the process of selection for tenure because dislodgment thereafter is notoriously difficult.

“Fermin’s termination letter was not a formulaic recitation such as ‘conduct unbecoming an officer’ or ‘for the good of the service.’ Rather, it informed him that issues had arisen during his field training concerning his judgment and conduct. The letter directed Fermin to ‘identified observed characteristics’ concerning his judgment and conduct. We note that we have not found and neither party identified any reported Massachusetts case holding a termination notice lacked the level of detail required by statute. On this record, we are satisfied that the termination letter sufficed under state law.”

Fermin v. City of Lawrence, 2021 WL 333771 (Mass. App. Ct. 2021).

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