Retaliation Lawsuit Against State Office Goes Forward

, New York Law Journal

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A federal judge has declined to dismiss a state employee's claim that he was retaliated against for his activism in a group that advocates for victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

U.S. District Judge Mae D'Agostino (See Profile) of the Northern District of New York has kept alive Mark Lyman's First Amendment retaliation claim against Laurie Felter, Lyman's supervisor at the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services in Albany. Lyman works in OASAS' facilities evaluation and inspection unit. D'Agostino ruled in Lyman v. New York State OASAS, 1:12-cv-530, that Lyman has adequately alleged in the initial stage of his suit that restrictions were placed on his work-related travel and activities that may have been related to his role as upstate coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

"In the present matter…plaintiff has adequately pled that Defendants impermissibly retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights," D'Agostino said in her decision on Tuesday. She cautioned, however, that the state could bolster its case that its actions were protected by qualified immunity during discovery.

Lyman alleges several instances of retaliation between 2010 and 2013, including his loss of overtime opportunities and the denial of a promotion. He said all occurred after he gave media interviews describing SNAP and criticizing the Roman Catholic Church. The state countered that there were valid reasons for the work-related actions, such as budget cuts forcing the restrictions on Lyman's travel.

Lyman is appearing pro se. Assistant attorney general Charles Quackenbush is defending the state.

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