Justice Stevens, delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented is whether § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U. S. C. § 1983, provides a remedy for a municipal employee who is fatally injured in the course of his employment because the city customarily failed to train or warn its employees about known hazards in the workplace. Even though the city's conduct may be actionable under state law, we hold that § 1983 does not apply because such conduct does not violate the Due Process Clause.
On October 21, 1988, Larry Michael Collins, an employee in the sanitation department of the city of Harker Heights, Texas, died of asphyxia after entering a manhole to unstop a sewer line. Petitioner, his widow, brought this action alleging that Collins "had a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable risks of harm to his body, mind and emotions and a constitutional right to be protected from the City of Harker Heights' custom and policy of deliberate indifference toward the safety of its employees." App. 7. Her complaint alleged that the city violated that right by following a custom and policy of not training its employees about the dangers of working in sewer lines and manholes, not providing safety equipment at job sites, and not providing safety warnings. The complaint also alleged that a prior incident
Our cases do not support the Court of Appeals' reading of § 1983 as requiring proof of an abuse of governmental power separate and apart from the proof of a constitutional violation. Although the statute provides the citizen with an effective remedy against those abuses of state power that violate federal law, it does not provide a remedy for abuses that do not violate federal law, see, e. g., Martinez v. California, 444 U.S. 277 (1980); DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989). More importantly, the statute does not draw any distinction between abusive and nonabusive federal violations.
The Court of Appeals' analysis rests largely on the fact that the city had, through allegedly tortious conduct, harmed one of its employees rather than an ordinary citizen over whom it exercised governmental power. The employment relationship, however, is not of controlling significance. On the one hand, if the city had pursued a policy of equally deliberate indifference to the safety of pedestrians that resulted in a fatal injury to one who inadvertently stepped into an open manhole, the Court of Appeals' holding would not speak to this situation at all, although it would seem that a claim by such a pedestrian should be analyzed in a similar manner as the claim by this petitioner. On the other hand, a logical application of the holding might also bar potentially meritorious claims by employees if, for example, the city had given an employee a particularly dangerous assignment in retaliation for a political speech, cf. St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112 (1988), or because of his or her gender, cf. Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The First Amendment, the Equal Protection and
Nevertheless, proper analysis requires us to separate two different issues when a § 1983 claim is asserted against a municipality: (1) whether plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation, and (2) if so, whether the city is responsible for that violation. See Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 817 (1985) (opinion of Rehnquist, J.); id., at 828-829 (opinion of Brennan, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). Because most of our opinions discussing municipal policy have involved the latter issue, it is appropriate to discuss it before considering the question whether petitioner's complaint has alleged a constitutional violation.
Section 1983 provides a remedy against "any person" who, under color of state law, deprives another of rights protected by the Constitution.
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In a series of later cases, the Court has considered whether an alleged injury caused by municipal employees acting under color of state law provided a proper basis for imposing liability on a city. In each of those cases the Court assumed that a constitutional violation had been adequately alleged or proved and focused its attention on the separate issue of municipal liability. Thus, for example, in Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, supra, it was assumed that a police officer had violated the decedent's constitutional rights, but we held that the wrongful conduct of a single officer without any policymaking authority did not establish municipal policy. And in St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112 (1988), without reaching
Our purpose in citing these cases is to emphasize the separate character of the inquiry into the question of municipal responsibility and the question whether a constitutional violation occurred. It was necessary to analyze whether execution of a municipal policy inflicted the injury in these cases because, unlike ordinary tort litigation, the doctrine of respondeat superior was inapplicable. The city is not vicariously liable under § 1983 for the constitutional torts of its agents: It is only liable when it can be fairly said that the city itself is the wrongdoer. Because petitioner in this case relies so heavily on our reasoning in Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989)—and in doing so, seems to assume that the case dealt with the constitutional issue—it is appropriate to comment specifically on that case.
In Canton we held that a municipality can, in some circumstances, be held liable under § 1983 "for constitutional violations resulting from its failure to train municipal employees." Id., at 380. Among the claims advanced by the plaintiff in that case was a violation of the "right, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, to receive necessary medical attention while in police custody."
Id., at 381.
We began our analysis by plainly indicating that we were not deciding the constitutional issue.
We did not suggest that all harm-causing municipal policies are actionable under § 1983 or that all such policies are unconstitutional. Moreover, we rejected the city's argument that only unconstitutional policies can create municipal liability under the statute. Id., at 387. Instead, we concluded that if a city employee violates another's constitutional rights, the city may be liable if it had a policy or custom of failing to train its employees and that failure to train caused the constitutional violation. In particular, we held that the inadequate training of police officers could be characterized as the cause of the constitutional tort if—and only if—the
Although the term "deliberate indifference" has been used in other contexts to define the threshold for finding a violation of the Eighth Amendment, see Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976), as we have explained, that term was used in the Canton case for the quite different purpose of identifying the threshold for holding a city responsible for the constitutional torts committed by its inadequately trained agents.
Petitioner's constitutional claim rests entirely on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
As a general matter, the Court has always been reluctant to expand the concept of substantive due process because guide posts for responsible decision-making in this unchartered area are scarce and open-ended. Regents of Univ. of Mich. v. Ewing, 474 U.S. 214, 225-226 (1985). The doctrine of judicial self-restraint requires us to exercise the utmost care whenever we are asked to break new ground in this field. It is important, therefore, to focus on the allegations in the complaint to determine how petitioner describes the constitutional right at stake and what the city allegedly did to deprive her husband of that right.
A fair reading of petitioner's complaint does not charge the city with a willful violation of Collins' rights. Petitioner does not claim that the city or any of its agents deliberately harmed her husband. In fact, she does not even allege that his supervisor instructed him to go into the sewer when the supervisor knew or should have known that there was a significant risk that he would be injured. Instead, she makes the more general allegation that the city deprived him of
Neither the text nor the history of the Due Process Clause supports petitioner's claim that the governmental employer's duty to provide its employees with a safe working environment is a substantive component of the Due Process Clause. "[T]he Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to prevent government `from abusing [its] power, or employing it as an instrument of oppression.' " DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, 489 U. S., at 196 (quoting Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 348 (1986)). As we recognized in DeShaney:
Petitioner's submission that the city violated a federal constitutional obligation to provide its employees with certain minimal levels of safety and security is unprecedented. It is quite different from the constitutional claim advanced by plaintiffs in several of our prior cases who argued that the State owes a duty to take care of those who have already been deprived of their liberty. We have held, for example, that apart from the protection against cruel and unusual punishment provided by the Eighth Amendment, cf. Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678 (1978), the Due Process Clause of its own force requires that conditions of confinement satisfy certain minimal standards for pretrial detainees, see Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, n. 16, 545 (1979), for persons in mental institutions, Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 315— 316 (1982), for convicted felons, Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 94-99 (1987), and for persons under arrest, see Revere v. Massachusetts General Hospital, 463 U.S. 239, 244-245 (1983). The "process" that the Constitution guarantees in
We also are not persuaded that the city's alleged failure to train its employees, or to warn them about known risks of harm, was an omission that can properly be characterized as arbitrary, or conscience shocking, in a constitutional sense. Petitioner's claim is analogous to a fairly typical state-law tort claim: The city breached its duty of care to her husband by failing to provide a safe work environment. Because the Due Process Clause "does not purport to supplant traditional tort law in laying down rules of conduct to regulate liability for injuries that attend living together in society," Daniels v. Williams, 474 U. S., at 332, we have previously rejected claims that the Due Process Clause should be interpreted to impose federal duties that are analogous to those traditionally imposed by state tort law, see, e. g., id., at 332-333; Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 146 (1979); Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 701 (1976). The reasoning in those cases applies with special force to claims asserted against public employers because state law, rather than the Federal Constitution, generally governs the substance of the employment relationship. See, e. g., Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 350 (1976); Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577-578 (1972).
Our refusal to characterize the city's alleged omission in this case as arbitrary in a constitutional sense rests on the presumption that the administration of government programs is based on a rational decision-making process that takes account of competing social, political, and economic forces. Cf. Walker v. Rowe, 791 F.2d 507, 510 (CA7 1986). Decisions concerning the allocation of resources to individual programs, such as sewer maintenance, and to particular aspects
Finally, we reject petitioner's suggestion that the Texas Hazard Communication Act
In sum, we conclude that the Due Process Clause does not impose an independent federal obligation upon municipalities to provide certain minimal levels of safety and security in the workplace and the city's alleged failure to train or to warn its sanitation department employees was not arbitrary in a constitutional sense. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Richard Ruda, Carter G. Phillips, and Mark D. Hopson filed a brief for the National League of Cities et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance.
"The question presented in this case is whether a plaintiff seeking recovery under § 1983 for injury to a governmental employee must demonstrate, inter alia, that the conduct in issue was an abuse of governmental power. More particularly, does alleged wrongful conduct by government—in its capacity as employer rather than as a governing authority— that deprives its employee of an alleged constitutional right give rise to a § 1983 action? We base our holding on the abuse of government power standard, separate from the constitutional deprivation element or standard. The district court appears to have merged those two standards, which are among those necessary for bringing § 1983 into play here. In reviewing this Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, we will keep them separate.
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"In this Circuit, there is a separate standard that must also be satisfied— an abuse of government power. While this element is in many ways similar to, and often blends with, other necessary elements for a § 1983 action, such as deprivation of a constitutional right, and springs from the same sources as the deprivation element, it is separate nonetheless."916 F. 2d, at 286-287.
"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. . . ." 42 U. S. C. § 1983.
"Only where a municipality's failure to train its employees in a relevant respect evidences a `deliberate indifference' to the rights of its inhabitants can such a shortcoming be properly thought of as a city `policy or custom' that is actionable under § 1983.
. . . . .
"Consequently, while claims such as respondent's—alleging that the city's failure to provide training to municipal employees resulted in the constitutional deprivation she suffered—are cognizable under § 1983, they can only yield liability against a municipality where that city's failure to train reflects deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of its inhabitants." Id., at 389, 392.
"Every employer shall provide, at least annually, an education and training program for employees using or handling hazardous chemicals. . . . Additional instruction shall be provided when the potential for exposure to hazardous chemicals is altered or when new and significant information is received by the employer concerning the hazards of a chemical. New or newly assigned employees shall be provided training before working with or in a work area containing hazardous chemicals." And § 15(a)states:
"Employees who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals shall be informed of the exposure and shall have access to the workplace chemical list and [material safety data sheets] for the hazardous chemicals. . . . In addition, employees shall receive training on the hazards of the chemicals and on measures they can take to protect themselves from those hazards and shall be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment. These rights are guaranteed on the effective date of this Act."