Free Speech Hiring & Firing

News & Analysis as of

Busting Employment Law Myths

Employment lawyers get to hear lots of great stories and lots of client opinions. That’s part of why we love our jobs. Many of the stories describe goofy or inappropriate employee behavior – and some include goofy or...more

Supreme Court Extends Public Sector Employees' First Amendment Rights

A public sector employee may now have a First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim even where the public sector employee has not engaged in protected First Amendment political activity. This may be the case if a public...more

Cooling hot political buttons

During every political campaign, I am reminded of the notion that if we speak about our co-workers or subordinates in the manner in which the American voter speaks about political candidates, we should expect some remediation...more

Misread Signs: U.S. Supreme Court Finds Employer’s Mistaken Belief about Employee Supports Retaliation Claim

Is it still retaliation if your boss fired you for something you didn’t actually do? In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court said yes—your boss’s mistake does not get him off the hook for the...more

Demotion Based on Mistaken Belief Deprives Public Employee of Constitutional Rights

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Case Involving Political Campaigning Accusations - A government agency violated the constitutional rights of an employee who was demoted based on the mistaken belief that he violated the...more

But I Didn’t Mean To! U.S. Supreme Court Says Employer Intentions Govern in First Amendment Retaliation Case

For government employers, disciplining and terminating employees can be especially difficult. Not only does the public employer face the same challenges in complying with the standard alphabet soup of employment laws that...more

Schilling Firing: Can You Fire An Employee for What They Say on Social Media?

This week ESPN fired pitcher-turned-broadcaster Kurt Schilling for an allegedly offensive tweet about the recently passed law in North Carolina requiring persons to use the restroom associated with the sex of their birth. As...more

Employment Law Letter - Spring 2016

Will Smoking Pot on the Job Get You Fired? You’d think that would be a slam dunk question, but if you’re a state employee whose union is willing to take your case to an arbitrator, apparently it isn’t. Back in 2012,...more

Higher Education Highlights - Spring 2016

Upcoming changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act salary-basis test may convert many of your smartphone-toting exempt employees into non-exempt employees, requiring you to track the evening and weekend time these employees...more

Won’t You Please, Please Yelp Me?

Yelp, I need somebody - Yelp, not just anybody - Yelp, you know I need someone - Yelp! My apologies to the Beatles. But the notion that one can’t do it alone and expect to be protected, may just be an apt moral in today’s...more

Must An Employer Tolerate Truly Obnoxious Employee Speech That Is Not Job-Related?

There is a tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University School of Communications and Multi-Media Studies who has gained notoriety because of his public statements, including a blog, which claim that virtually every mass...more

As The Rotunda Turns . . . Affair, Coverup, Retaliation — And Lawsuit Against State House

You may have heard about the two Tea Party legislators in Michigan who were having an affair, engaged in a bizarre cover-up that failed, had to resign/were expelled, and then lost their election bids to get their seats back....more

Connecticut’s Highest Court Expands Whistleblower Protections for Employees

What you need to know: Last Monday, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Trusz v. UBS Realty Investors that private sector employees who make whistleblower statements pursuant to their official job duties are protected...more

Whistleblower Liability: Two Recent U.S. Supreme Court Rulings Could Have Major Implications for Employers

The United States Supreme Court’s 2013-14 docket featured a number of labor and employment law decisions warranting employers’ attention. Media headlines focused mostly on cases dealing with employers’ religious beliefs and...more

Not My Brother’s Keeper: Varley v. Regional School District No. 4 and A School District’s Responsibility For “Free Speech” Claims...

When entering into contacts with vendors, school districts hope that 1) the vendor will comply with the law, and 2) in any event, the vendor will be responsible for its own employment-related disputes. In Varley v. Regional...more

NLRB Concocts New F’ing Profanity Excuse

In 2005, a Starbucks barista walked into his store with several co-workers while staroff duty. He was there to protest Starbucks’ policy concerning baristas wearing pro-union pins. A row ensued between the barista and an...more

Facebook: Fireable Offense or Free Speech?

The interplay between an employee’s postings on Facebook and the impact of those postings on his or her employment status is an evolving area of the law. Just last month, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of...more

California Employment Law Notes - January 2014

TV Station's Failure To Hire Weather News Anchor Was Protected By Free Speech Rights - Hunter v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc., 221 Cal. App. 4th 1510 (2013) - Kyle Hunter sued CBS Broadcasting for age and gender...more

What's in a "Like"? Precedent-Setting Case Poses New Risk for Employers

The ubiquitous thumbs-up icon in Facebook has gained new prominence for private employers. In a case of first impression, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that an employee fired for "liking" the campaign...more

District Court Finds First Amendment Does Not Protect Former Guidance Counselor’s Sexually-Explicit Book

The Northern District Court of Illinois found that Rich Township High School District 227 did not violate the free speech rights of former guidance counselor and girls’ basketball coach Bryan Craig when it dismissed him based...more

Firing Employees For Their Social Media Content – First, Stop And Think [Audio]

Much has been written about whether you can fire someone for what they put on Facebook. Your gut reaction may be that surely if someone talks bad about the company, you can fire them. The National Relations Labor Board...more

New Jersey District Dismisses Teacher Who Called Students “Future Criminals” On Facebook

Earlier this month, a New Jersey appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a tenured teacher for comments she made about her students on Facebook. Good summaries of the case, In re O’Brien, can be found through the National...more

Political Affiliation & Protected Speech Retaliation – Sixth Circuit Widens Circuit Split

The Sixth Circuit recently held that Michigan state employees could base First Amendment political-affiliation and protected-speech retaliation claims on their perceived political affiliations, even absent actual affiliations...more

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