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Public employers: Consider rights before axing protesters

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in Human Resources

The relationship between government entities and their employees can get contentious. Sometimes, those employees may even protest what they perceive as poor public policy choices on the part of their employers.

As long as employees follow all the rules and protest or speak out on their own time, don’t respond angrily and punish them.

Recent case: Several tenured teachers participated in protests over proposed school closings. They took the day off to protest. They were fired, ostensibly for creating a disturbance.

A federal judge ordered their reinstatement, concluding that they had been punished for speaking out—as allowed by the First Amendment. They had followed the rules and spoke out about matters of public importance and therefore could not be punished. (Conn, et al., v. Board of Education, No. 2:08-CV-13073, ED MI, 2008)

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