Public employers can’t discriminate against applicants because they decide to speak out on matters of political importance. That would violate the First Amendment. And that protection includes the right to membership in a political party. But not every case that carries a slight whiff of politics winds up creating a big legal stink.
Recent case: Randy George sued several state agencies and individuals over alleged First Amendment violations. George had long been active in Republican Party politics and worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich took office, ending 26 consecutive years of Republican administrations. At the time, George was up for a promotion. But Blagojevich ordered a hiring freeze and then a reorganization of the Department of Corrections. Eventually, George lost his job.
George sued, alleging the department terminated him because of his involvement in Republican Party politics. But in court, he offered no actual proof of that, and the court determined that a change in gubernatorial administrations wasn’t enough evidence that political bias played a role in his termination. (George v. Walker, et al., No. 07-3022, 7th Cir., 2008)
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