Civil Case Law - Fourth Circuit

4th Circuit (Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia)

Cases Upholding Agency Anti-Fraternization Policies

Wolford v. Angelone , 38 F.Supp. 2d 452 (W.D. Va. 1999): A female correctional officer began working with the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) in 1992. She began living with her husband in 1995. The couple had a child in 1996. In 1997, the correctional officer’s husband was convicted of multiple felony and misdemeanor offenses. The two married after his conviction, and two months later he started serving his sentence in the VDOC. The VDOC’s anti-fraternization policy stated that, “[i]mproprieties or the appearance of improprieties, fraternization, or other non-professional association by and between employees and inmates, probationers, or parolees or families of inmates, probationers, or parolees shall be discouraged.” The agency would typically terminate those who violated this policy. The plaintiff contended that, on April 23, 1997, the state investigator and the assistant warden interviewed her concerning her relationship with her husband and told her she could either resign or be fired. The officer brought a § 1983 action alleging that the VDOC, claiming that the anti-fraternization policy violated her First Amendment freedom of association right and her Fourteenth Amendment right to marry. The court applied the rational relation standard and concluded that the anti-fraternization policy of firing a state prison employee for her intimate relationship with an inmate is rationally related to the goal of maintaining prison security, and therefore does not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments.