Best Lawblog Contest for 2017 now being conducted by The Legal Institute

From now until
September 15th, 2017, Lawblog fans can nominate their favorite blogs and bloggers for inclusion in the voting round of 2017. As in previous years, the nomination process is competitive, meaning the more nominations a blog receives, the more likely it is to be included in the public voting stage of the contest.

To access the link to the nomination form, click on:

https://www.theexpertinstitute.com/blog-contest/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=CTA&utm_campaign=blog-contest-8.14.2017-general

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Public employees and the First Amendment right to free speech


Public employees and the First Amendment right to free speech
Thomas v City of Blanchard, 548 F.3d 1317

In considering a public employee’s claim that his or her First Amendment right to free speech has been compromised by his or her public employer, courts distinguish between the employee’s speech in terms of the vindication of a personal interest and the vindication of a public interest.

Another arena in which an employee may contend that his or her employer’s actions are violative of the employee’s free speech are tested in terms of whether the speech concerned the employee’s official duties or a public interest.

The latter was the issue in the Thomas case: Was Thomas’s report to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) made pursuant to his professional duties and therefore outside the scope of First Amendment protections within the meaning of Garcetti v Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, or was his speech a matter of public interest and thus protected by the First Amendment?

Ira Thomas was fired from his job as building code inspector for the City of Blanchard, Oklahoma, after he discovered a signed and completed certificate of occupancy for a home constructed by a local builder — who was also the mayor — in the City Clerk’s office although Thomas had neither made the final inspection of the home nor approved issuance of the certificate.

In the words of the Tenth Circuit, “Suspecting illegality, Mr. Thomas responded forcefully (and maybe even inappropriately; that is a disputed issue) by storming into a meeting to denounce the certificate, shouting at the City Clerk, threatening to report the matter to the OSBI and eventually following through on the threat.”

Subsequently terminated from his position, Thomas sued the City and various city officials, including the mayor, claiming his discharge was in retaliation for his exercising his right to free speech — primarily, his reporting the matter to the OSBI — and therefore in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

The Circuit Court decided that Thomas’s search was not made pursuant to his professional duties and thus was constitutionally protected. Citing its decision in Casey v. West Las Vegas Independent School District, 473 F.3d 1323, the court concluded that ala Casey, "Thomas was not satisfied that the city’s officials would report the fraud to the authorities, so he 'took his grievance elsewhere' — that is, to the OSBI.”

The court then considered a number of additional relevant issues including (1) whether the government’s interest outweighed the employee’s free speech rights and (2) whether the speech was a motivating factor in the discharge.

As to whether Thomas’s speech was a matter of public concern, the Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that although this issue was raised for the first time in this appeal, speech about possible illegality or pressure by the mayor would count as a matter of public concern.

Addressing whether city’s interest as employer in promoting the efficiency of the services it performs outweighs the employee’s interest in his speech, the court said that for the purposes of this test, the question is not whether the plaintiff’s speech was accompanied by disruptive behavior or made in a disruptive manner, but whether the government’s legitimate interests provide a sufficient justification for controlling Thomas’s message.

The decision also addresses other significant issues concerning the rights and limitations concerning the exercise of “free speech” by a public employee.

The full text of the decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/07/07-6197.pdf

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

Caution:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.

THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in this blog is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader should seek such advice from a competent professional.

Items published in NYPPL may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written permission to copy and distribute such material. Send your request via e-mail to publications@nycap.rr.com

Copyright© 1987 - 2017 by the Public Employment Law Press.



___________________



N.B. From time to time a political ad or endorsement may appear in the sidebar of this Blog. NYPPL does not have any control over such posting.

_____________________

.