Can you fire someone for speaking to the press? According to one court’s reasoning, it’s possible.
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by Denise Hughes, a former program coordinator for the Region VII Area Agency on Aging, located in
Hughes had discussed her boss, Bruce King; his job performance; a sexual harassment lawsuit against him; and information on the agency’s spending for new offices. The reporter testified that shortly before Hughes was fired, he confirmed to King that Hughes had been his source.
The court ruled that her speech “did not address a matter of public concern and, so, was not constitutionally protected.” Hughes said she will appeal.
Advice: Always check with counsel before punishing a whistle-blower. Many state and federal laws have specific prohibitions against retaliating against employees who raise legitimate health, safety or corruption concerns.
- Make sure all medical tests you require are truly job-related and necessary
- Invest a little in harassment training upfront to avoid sky-high litigation costs later
- Check settlement agreements for precise ADEA language
- Don't be caught by surprise: Spell out harassment policy
- When worker complains, find out if she's a 'Serial sue-er'