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Gov’t workers with free speech claims can charge retaliation

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

An employee who works for a government agency or other public employer and files an internal grievance may be protected from retaliation. That’s because the grievance may be protected First Amendment speech, against which the employer can’t retaliate.

Recent case: Thomas DiTullio was a patrol officer for the township of Washington when he was passed over for
a promotion. He filed an internal grievance and then was invited to dinner with the mayor, who allegedly promised to settle the case. That didn’t happen. Instead, DiTullio found himself the object of an internal investigation that he believed was started to dissuade him from pursuing his grievance.

He sued, alleging retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right to speak out over unfairness by filing the internal grievance. The court agreed he had enough evidence for a jury trial. (DiTullio v. Township of Washington, No. 06-5671, DC NJ, 2008)

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