Free Speach Rights of Public Employees is severly limited new Court Opinion

In the case of Graziosi v. City of Greenville Mississippi, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 370 (5th Cir. 2015 the 5th Cir held that  a city police sergeant was not protected from retaliation by the First Amendment with respect to her Facebook post criticizing the police chief for failing to allow officers to use department vehicles to attend the funeral of an officer from another town, and for his  lack of leadership. She sued claiming she was fired for exercising her free speech rights which are protected by the US Constitution for Public Employees (private employees are not protected because the Constitutional right of Free Speech relates to the government and because private employees who don’t work for the government are not generally protected by the constitutional guarantees of free speech.)  The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in the past that for public employees to have a claim they must make the speech as a private citizen and it must involve a “public concern”.  Frankly it is extremely difficult in the US but especially in El Paso, Texas to make a claim for wrongful termination for a violation of free speech because of the 5th Cir. opinions on this topic. In tis case the 5th Cir ruled that the sergeant’s posts did constitute speech as a “citizen” and not an “employee,” because the posts were outside the scope of her job duties, but her posts did not involve a matter of “public concern.” Moreover, the department’s interest in maintaining departmental discipline, preserving working relationships, and preventing insubordination outweighed the sergeant’s speech interest. This last reason is always a balancing test that almost any Court, if it so desires, can use to throw out a public employees claims of wrongful termination.  It is very important that before a public employee makes such statements or posts to careful evaluate if they are protected or to go see a competent employment lawyer in the El Paso, Texas or Las Cruces area before making such post or public statements.  This seems to be an ongoing lesion for all employees in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico to be very careful what you post on social media.  I am seeing more cases of people getting terminated for these types of post. Lesson to learn: Be careful what you post on Facebook you are not always protected.

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