DANIEL GRAJALES; WANDA I. GONZÁLEZ; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP GRAJALES-GONZÁLEZ, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
PUERTO RICO PORTS AUTHORITY, Defendant, Appellee.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Pedro A. Delgado-Hernández, U.S.
Eugenio W.A. Géigel-Simounet, with whom
Géigel-Simounet Law Offices C.S.P. was on brief for
E. Palou Balsa, with whom Jennifer Lopez-Negrón and
Nolla, Palou & Casellas LLC were on brief for appellee.
Howard, Chief Judge, Thompson and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BARRON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal is the latest to have reached us concerning a suit
that Daniel Grajales, his wife, and their children bring
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Puerto Rico law against the
Puerto Rico Ports Authority (the "PRPA") and
several of its employees after the PRPA transferred him from
one posting at the PRPA to another and then eventually
terminated his employment. In this appeal, Grajales asks us
to overturn the District Court's grant of summary
judgment to the PRPA on res judicata grounds. We affirm.
appeal represents Grajales's third in this case. See
Grajales v. P.R. Ports Auth., 682 F.3d 40 (1st Cir.
2012) ("Grajales I"); Grajales v. P.R.
Ports Auth., 831 F.3d 11 (1st Cir. 2016)
("Grajales II"). In brief, Grajales
alleges that he was transferred to a new job location and
subsequently terminated from his employment with the PRPA
because of both his political affiliation and his reporting
of alleged safety violations by PRPA employees to the Puerto
Rico Occupational Safety and Health Administration. See
Grajales II, 831 F.3d at 14.
filed the operative complaint in the District of Puerto Rico
on August 31, 2012. He alleged that the PRPA, by taking such
actions against him, violated the First Amendment of the
Federal Constitution and various provisions of Puerto Rico
law. His wife and their minor children also brought claims
against the PRPA, in which they sought damages under a Puerto
Rico tort statute that permits relatives of those unlawfully
terminated from employment to bring derivative claims.
18, 2012, just before Grajales filed his complaint in federal
court, the Secretary of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto
Rico (the "Secretary of Labor"), "representing
and for the benefit of" Grajales, filed a civil
complaint against the PRPA in the Puerto Rico Court of First
Instance. See Complaint, Sec'y of Labor
& Human Res. v. P.R. Ports Auth., No. AC2012-0079
(P.R. Ct. of First Instance May 18, 2012). The Secretary of
Labor alleged in that complaint that Grajales had observed
and reported an incident that involved the safety of another
employee, that the PRPA had terminated Grajales in
retaliation for his reporting of the incident, and that an
investigation by the Puerto Rico Department of Labor had
found that the PRPA engaged in practices that endangered the
authority's employees. The Secretary of Labor sought
Grajales's reinstatement and back pay for him on the
basis of Puerto Rico's Occupational Safety and Health
Act, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 361aa, and Puerto
Rico's Retaliation in the Work Place Law, id.
17, 2017, while Grajales's federal suit against the PRPA
was still pending, the Court of First Instance entered
judgment in favor of the PRPA. The Court of First Instance
ruled that Grajales's termination was justified for a
number of non- retaliatory reasons, including acts of
insubordination, violation of various PRPA policies, and
disrespectful behavior that created a hostile work
environment for others. The Court of First Instance also
rejected Grajales's contention that he was terminated in
retaliation for his reporting activity.
PRPA then moved for summary judgment in the District of
Puerto Rico case on res judicata grounds in light of the
ruling by the Court of First Instance, and the District Court
granted that motion. Grajales now appeals from that judgment.
dealing here with the claimed res judicata effect of a
judgment of a Commonwealth court and thus with a judgment
that, under 28 U.S.C. § 1738, must be given "full
faith and credit." Id.; see also R.G. Fin.
Corp. v. Vergara-Nuñez, 446 F.3d 178, 182-83 (1st
Cir. 2006). In keeping with this statute, we must give the
same res judicata effect to that judgment as the jurisdiction
that issued it would give it in its own courts. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1738; see also R.G. Fin. Corp., 446 F.3d at
182-83. Thus, we apply Puerto Rico law to determine the
preclusive effect of the judgment of the ...