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No free-speech protection if job is to flag misconduct

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in Human Resources

Government employees retain the right to free speech, and they can’t be punished for speaking out on matters of public importance. But if it’s part of an employee’s job to speak up, that protection doesn’t apply. Those employees are merely doing their jobs.

Recent case:
Reynold Benjamin supervised several people he believed were “ghost employees,” hired to be paid, but not to work. It was one of Benjamin’s job responsibilities to ferret out such potential corruption. When Benjamin was fired shortly after he reported his suspicions up the chain of command, he sued, alleging that his termination violated the Constitution’s First Amendment.

The court dismissed Benjamin’s case, reasoning that he was merely making an internal report required of someone in his position, and not speaking out as a private citizen. (Benjamin v. Illinois, No. 09-C-5019, ND IL, 2010)

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