No First Amendment Right To Complain About Dissatisfaction With Job

Daniel Prince is a deputy sheriff who works for the Monroe County, New York Sheriff’s Department. Prince filed a federal court lawsuit alleging that he was retaliated against for raising claims of on-the-job harassment. In particular, Prince alleged that a sergeant referred to him as a “mother fucker, little bitch, pussy-ass bitch, faggot, and a whining little fag.”

A federal court dismissed the lawsuit. Quoting from a Supreme Court decision, the Court found that “when a public employee speaks not as a citizen upon matters of public concern, but instead as an employee upon matters only of personal interest, except in the most unusual circumstances, a federal court is not the appropriate forum in which to review the wisdom of a personnel decision taken by a public agency in reaction to an employee’s behavior. The record reveals that Prince’s conversations with his supervisors related to the terms and conditions of his employment. Because he was speaking as an employee on matters of personal concern, his speech does not rise to the level of constitutionally protected speech. Moreover, the record as a whole reveals that Prince complained about a note being placed in his file, a job counseling session regarding the alleged abuse of sick time, and verbal harassment from the sergeant. These matters are quintessentially employment matters, and speech regarding these matters does not rise to the level of constitutionally protected speech.”

Prince v. Monroe County, 2009 WL 3268505 (W.D. N.Y. 2009).

This article appears in the January 2010 issue