New From SCOTUS: First Amendment Protects Government Employees From Retaliation, Even if the Employer is Wrong About the Speech

SCOTUS: Government Employees are Protected from Retaliation

SCOTUS: Government Employees are Protected from Retaliation

In a 6-2 decision that broadens First Amendment protections for public employees, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the lower court erred when it dismissed a lawsuit brought by a New Jersey police officer who was demoted after fellow officers saw him with a campaign sign for the challenger to the incumbent police chief.

As it turned out, the plaintiff in Heffernan v. City of Patterson was not actually supporting the challenger – he was picking up the sign for his bedridden mother. The defendants were not aware of this fact. They tried to use their ignorance to their advantage, arguing that the City should not be liable for retaliation since supervisors were actually wrong about Mr. Heffernan engaging in protected speech.

Writing for the Court, Justice Breyer rejected the defendants’ argument: [Read more…]