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Public employee free speech rights don’t extend outside work

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Government employees have limited First Amendment rights at work to voice concerns of “public importance.” But the right doesn’t extend to causing confrontations outside of work when the speech has nothing to do with public issues.

Recent case: Margo worked as a bus driver. When a boy got disruptive, a parent at a stop got on the bus and argued with Margo. She told the mother she would take care of the matter. Then she realized that the boy was a playmate of her grandchildren. After her shift, she allegedly went to the boy’s house to confront the parent.

Margo was fired for discussing a student’s behavior and for confronting the apparent guardian at her home.

She sued, alleging her First Amendment rights had been violated. The court tossed out the lawsuit, noting that nothing she did involved the public’s interest. (Carris v. First Student, No. 5:13-CV-0923, ND, NY, 2015)

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