Some public employees think they are protected from retaliation anytime they speak out. It’s not true.
Recent case: Jose Garcia managed one of the New York Racing Association’s barns at Saratoga. Garcia reported that he found a stash of liquor in the barn, which is illegal under New York’s racing regulations.
When he was later fired, Garcia sued, alleging it was retaliation for exercising his right to free speech—reporting the presence of alcohol. He claimed he had spoken out about a matter of public importance.
The court disagreed. It said since Garcia was the barn manager, he was responsible for making sure it operated legally. Reporting illegal activity was therefore part of his job and not protected activity or exercise of free speech. (Garcia v. New York Racing Association, No. 1:10-01092, ND NY, 2011)