Constitution Doesn’t Protect Town Employee’s Internal Complaints

February 18th, 2012 by JBWK

Following a broad ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006, a federal judge held last week that a Virginia town employee’s internal complaints to his supervisors were not constitutionally protected.

The employee was the head of the town’s water and waste utilities department until he was fired. Over the course of several years, he wrote detailed complaints to his supervisor, the town manager, regarding concerns over the sewer systems and related issues. All the concerns he raised were within his job responsibilities, and he did not relay his concerns to the town council or the press until after he was terminated.

The employee sued, claiming he was retaliated against for exercising his rights under the First Amendment. The trial court disagreed, ruling that government employees speaking as part of their jobs have no First Amendment protection. Of course, they are free to speak as private citizens regarding issues of public interest, but speech in the course of the employee’s job is not protected at all.

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