When Unprotected ‘Employee Speech’ Becomes Protected ‘Citizen Speech’

Scott Specht works as a fire marshal for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), where his primary responsibilities involved investigating the origins of fires. In that capacity, Specht investigated a fire in March 2018 that destroyed a five-story brownstone in Manhattan where a motion picture was being filmed. The fire resulted in serious damage to the building and the death of a firefighter. Over the course of his…

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Comments In Union Election Protected By Labor Law

Jennifer Tyler is a member of the Chelan County Deputy Sheriff’s Association in Washington. When a vice-president of the Association resigned, Sergeant Adam Musgrove ran for the position. On October 12, 2018, Tyler responded to Musgrove’s nomination in an email sent to the private email addresses of all union members. Tyler wrote, “I would like to contest the nomination of Adam Musgrove on the basis of evidence of workplace…

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Memo About Moldy Police Station Not Constitutionally Protected

Gerald Olbek was the deputy chief of the Wildwood Police Department in Florida. After a series of events that included a fire at the Department’s station, Olbek became concerned that the station had a serious mold problem. Olbek wrote a memo detailing the mold issues. The memo cited the fact that numerous employees had com­plained of health conditions related to mold and that the City had tried to remedy…

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SWAT Sniper Entitled To Jury Trial In Facebook Case

You know a court’s opinion will be anything but run-of-the-mill when it begins: “Social media has allowed Americans to connect with friends in far-flung places and to share their opinions on topics both mundane and momentous. But social media can also tempt people to impulsively make inflammatory comments that they later regret. And even worse for them, employers often react by firing or punishing them for their ill-advised remarks….

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EMS Captain’s Facebook Post May Be Constitutionally Protected

Jamie Marquardt was a captain with City of Cleveland’s Department of Emergency Medical Services. Marquardt had a “private” Facebook page which did not identify him as a City employee. A little more than a year after a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a post appeared on Marquardt’s Facebook page: “Let me be the first on record to have the balls to say Tamir Rice should…

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‘Do Not Apply’ Alert Is Protected Union Speech

In March 2016, then-interim Santa Maria, California Fire Chief Scott Kenley first raised the possibility with the Santa Maria Firefighters Association (SMFA) of running an open recruitment for the position of captain, which would allow people who were not already employees of the fire department to apply for the position. Kenley cited low interest and few applications among internal candidates as the reasons for the idea. The fire department…

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A Captain, A Polygrapher, Women, Bikers, And Protected Speech

On December 31, 2013, Paul Carey retired from the Maryland Natural Resources Police (MNRP) after 26 years of service. He began working for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in August 2015. On May 25, 2017, three months before Carey’s contract expired, the Department abruptly fired him without giving him a reason for his termination. Carey sued, alleging that he was fired from DNR in retaliation for two posts…

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Complaint About Fire Chief’s Nazi Behavior Given Mixed Protection

James Dumas is a firefighter at St. Tammany Parish Fire District No. 3 in Louisiana, and is the vice-president of the firefighters’ union. In May 2016, the Union submitted a letter to the District’s Civil Service Board expressing a “vote of no confidence” in Fire Chief Patrick Sicard. The letter alleged that Sicard violated several provisions of civil service law, including failing to perform the duties of his position…

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‘Disrespectful Speech’ May Be Protected By Labor Laws

The Borough of Carteret, New Jersey and Local 47 of the Police Benevolent Association are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. Salvatore Renda is the president of Local 47. On October 21, 2010, there was a public meeting of the Borough Council. Individuals intending to speak at the meeting were asked to list their names on a sign-up sheet. They were reminded by the Mayor that they would have…

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