CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The North Carolina Supreme Court sided with former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Daniel Bailey, represented by Womble Carlyle attorney Sean Perrin, in an employment dispute that impacts law enforcement agencies in all 100 North Carolina counties.
In Young v. Bailey, former Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office deputy Terri Young sued Sheriff Bailey for wrongful termination. On January 29th, the N.C. Supreme Court affirmed the decision by the state’s Court of Appeals that Sheriff Bailey had not acted improperly in terminating Young’s employment.
In 2009, Sheriff Bailey sent letters to all 1,350 department employees asking for campaign contributions for his reelection bid. Sheriff Bailey did not track which employees contributed to the campaign and he has said Young was terminated for legitimate personnel reasons.
Young was released from her duties in 2010, and subsequently filed a lawsuit, claiming her termination violated both her Constitutional free speech rights as well as North Carolina state statute protecting the rights of county employees. That statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-99, holds that “no employee may be required as a duty or condition of employment, promotion, or tenure of office to contribute funds for political or partisan purposes.”
However, Perrin successfully argued that Young and other deputies are not county employees, but are directly employed by the sheriff. Thus, sheriff’s employees are not “county employees” as defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-99 and are not entitled to the protections of that statute. The Supreme Court also ruled that Young’s free speech rights were not violated by her firing.
The N.C. Supreme Court also decided on two similar cases brought against Sheriff Bailey by former employees. The Justices relied on their decision in Young v. Bailey in deciding these cases.
Click here to read coverage of Young v. Bailey in the Charlotte Observer.
Sean Perrin is a member of the firm’s business litigation practice, and an experienced trial attorney, having tried over 50 jury trials and 500 bench trials as lead counsel in both state and federal courts. He practices in Womble Carlyle’s Charlotte office.