The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that an employee who testified before a grand jury regarding another employee’s misconduct could not be fired for his testimony. Read more here. In this case, an employee of a community college performed an audit and discovered that another employee (who also happened to be a State Representative) had not been showing up at all for her job and had still collected $177,000. After firing the absentee employee, he testified regarding his investigation and the employee’s termination. Shortly thereafter, the employee who testified was himself terminated from his employment. He sued, alleging that the termination violated his First Amendment rights to free speech.
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a public employee can’t sue if he is fired for speaking out about something that falls within the scope of his employment. This decision, Garcetti v. Ceballos, has been applied pretty broadly by federal and state courts to block suits by employees complaining that they have been fired for speaking out in the workplace. For example, the Connecticut Supreme Court held two years ago that this rule applies to private sector employees in Connecticut, as well.
This new U.S. Supreme Court case is good news for employees. Justice Sotomayor reinforced the importance of public employees’ freedom from retaliation when bringing up issues that affect good government and the taxpayers.