Fired for Free Speech
Freedom of speech, and the ability to speak one's mind on important issues of the day is one of the freedoms we hold dear as Americans. Freedom of speech means that we can express opinions that are unpopular and ones that powerful people might disagree with. Connecticut law extends that Constitutional freedom of free speech to private employers. This law limits an employer’s ability to limit your free speech rights in the workplace.
Connecticut Freedom of Speech at Work
If you've been fired or faced other negative employment actions as a consequence of a legally protected opinion you stated, Connecticut law may protect you. The Hartford Free Speech lawyers at Hayber Law Firm can represent you if you've been terminated or disciplined due to statements made within your freedom of speech. Contact us today by filling out our online form so that we can review the details of your case.
At Hayber Law Firm, our Hartford-based firm represents clients in New Haven, Milford, Stamford, Bridgeport and throughout Connecticut.
Hartford Wrongful Termination for Free Speech Information Center
- Connecticut Employment Law on Freedom of Speech
- Connecticut Free Speech Law Not Applicable if Made in Job Capacity
- Matter Must Be of Public Concern
Under Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-51q, an employer (even an private employer not generally subject to the Constitution) may not discipline or discharge an employee because of any exercise of that employee's First Amendment rights, including the right to free speech, as long as the activity does not substantially or materially interfere with their job duties or their working relationship.
For example, Martha is an administrative assistant at a real estate office in Waterbury. She is a Democrat, and it is an election year. She places a bumper sticker on her car for a Democratic candidate. Her boss says he disagrees with her decision, and she should remove the sticker. She refuses, and is fired. Martha may have a strong cause of action against her employer and can seek the assistance of a Hartford wrongful termination lawyer.
Note that this story may be different if Martha was an administrative assistant for the New Haven Republican Party. In such a case, her speech could severely impact her ability to perform her job.
Under the law, an employee cannot be compelled to say anything, unless it is part of their job duty. For instance, Martha's boss cannot require her to canvass for his candidate, even if she is on the clock.
The law, however, does not protect employees if they speak as part of their official duties. If a private sector employee makes statements or refuses to make statements, in their capacity as an employee, then the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Schumann v. Dianon that the First Amendment does not apply.
In that case, Schumann, a doctor who worked for a testing laboratory, refused to use certain terms in his job because he thought they would harm patients and was fired. He sued, citing his First Amendment rights and saying he was speaking on a matter of public concern. The Court ruled that the statements related to his job, and were therefore not protected, and therefore his free speech amounted to insubordination.
In doing so, the Court applied the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which applies the same rule to public sector employees. In that case, a district attorney criticized a warrant and was denied a promotion. The Court ruled that the statements were made in the course of the DA doing his job, so the First Amendment protections did not apply.
The matter being spoken about must be one of public concern for the protections to apply. This could include any matter that is political, social or legal. For instance, if an employee makes a statement about his or her feelings on abortion, the employer may not discipline the employee, since that is a matter of social and political import, and therefore is of public concern.
However, if the same employee complained that their employer had poor customer service, or that he or she was denied a promotion, then that employee may be subject to termination or other discipline since those matters are not of "public concern."
Hayber Law Firm | Freedom of Speech in Hartford Employment Law
Connecticut employees have a right to say what they think about matters of public concern as long as it does not substantially interfere with their job duties. If you've stated an opinion that's gotten you fired or disciplined, the Connecticut wrongful termination lawyers at Hayber Law Firm can represent you. Complete our online form so that we can read about your employment issues.