Public employee free speech: Only statements of ‘Public concern’ protected — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Public employee free speech: Only statements of ‘Public concern’ protected

Get PDF file

by on
in Human Resources

The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects public employees from being fired for engaging in some forms of free speech—but that protection is quite limited. For example, the right to free speech doesn’t mean that public employers can’t sack employees who maintain explicit or offensive web pages.

Unless the speech concerns matters of public interest or policy, it isn’t covered. To qualify, the speech must involve an issue of social, political or other interest to a community.

Note: If such a case makes it into court, the burden is on the employee to show that the speech met the public interest requirement.

Recent case: William Shaver lost his job as a public school bus driver when the school board became upset over his wife’s explicit web site. The school system claimed that Shaver suggested that students visit the page.

Shaver sued, alleging what was on the site was protected speech. But he didn’t give any specific examples. The court dismissed his case because he didn’t show the speech involved matters of public concern. (Shaver v. Davie County Public Schools, No. 1:07-CV-00176, MD NC, 2008)

Leave a Comment


Previous post:

Next post: