a public employee cannot assert a constitutional First Amendment cause of action for speech related to the performance of that employee’s job duties.
Alexandria, Virginia (PRWEB) April 28, 2014
The International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) joined with the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) in filing an amicus curiae brief (No. 13.483) in the case of Lane v. Franks, which has been accepted for review by the United States Supreme Court. The full brief is available here.
The Supreme Court justices are scheduled for oral argument today with a decision expected by the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June.
The case focuses on whether a government employee should be permitted to assert a constitutional claim based on the First Amendment when that employee alleges that his or her employer retaliated for speech related to the performance of the employee’s job duties.
IPMA-HR and IMLA contend that “a public employee cannot assert a constitutional First Amendment cause of action for speech related to the performance of that employee’s job duties.” The brief submitted by the Associations argues that employee grievances should not become constitutional causes of action. To tackle such issues, there are numerous statutory remedies that are available to employees who believe they have been dismissed in retaliation for their testimony.
The brief also highlights that all states have some form of whistleblower protection laws and that legislatures are the appropriate bodies to address issues such as this if existing remedies are not sufficient.
The Associations recognize that the application of the First Amendment to government employment did not occur until 1968 when the United States Supreme Court held that “public employees do not surrender all their First Amendment rights by reason of their employment.” However, the court continued to acknowledge that governments have interests as employers in regulating the speech of its employees that “differs significantly from those it possesses in connection with regulation of the speech of the citizenry in general.”
Background of Case:
Edward Lane worked as the director of the Community Intensive Training for Youth Program at Central Alabama Community College from September 2006 to January 2009, which was a probationary appointment. He ran the program and was responsible for the day-to-day operations, including the hiring and firing of employees and financial decisions. Shortly after beginning his job, Lane discovered that Suzanne Schmitz, a state legislator was listed on the payroll, but was not reporting for work and had not performed any work. He ultimately fired her after she refused to report to work.
In November 2006, following an FBI investigation, Lane testified before a grand jury against Schmitz and then again in August 2008, when he was subpoenaed to testify in Schmitz’s criminal trial. Four months after Lane testified at the criminal trial, he was laid off from his position along with 28 other employees for financial reasons. Approximately seven months later, the entire program was eliminated due to budgetary issues and the remaining employees were laid off.
Almost two years later, Lane brought this action alleging a First Amendment retaliation cause of action. He contends that he was fired for his testimony. Both the District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor of the employer.
The International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) is the leading public sector human resources organization in the world, and the premier international provider of public safety tests. IPMA-HR is committed to the advancement of the public sector and the strengthening of our communities by empowering HR professionals with key educational and training opportunities, valuable resources and assessments products, and effective advocacy at every level of government.
The International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) is a non-profit, professional organization that has been an advocate and resource for local government attorneys since 1935. IMLA services as an international clearinghouse of legal information and cooperation on municipal legal matters. IMLA collects from and disseminates information to its membership across the United States and Canada and helps governmental officials prepare for litigation and develop new local laws.