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Do Government Employees Have 1st Amendment Rights

On Behalf of | May 17, 2016 | Employment Law

Yes. But a government employee’s 1st amendments rights are not necessarily absolute. “The First Amendment generally prohibits government officials from dismissing or demoting an employee because of the employee’s engagement in constitutionally protected political activity.” Heffernan v. City of Paterson, 14-1280 (U.S. 2016). In fact, in Heffernan, the Supreme Court held that even perceived engagement in protected activity is protected. (Id.)

For government employees to enjoy 1st Amendment protection, they must show only that they spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern. Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 103 S.Ct. 1684, 75 L.Ed.2d 708 (1983). However, courts will balance the need for the Government’s right to run efficiently. (Id.) Thus, all grievances are not necessarily protected speech.

If you are a government employee, and your employer terminated you because of protected political activity, you should seek the advice of an experienced employment attorney. You may have a claim for a 1st Amendment violation against your government employer.

Matt Miller-Novak, Esq.
Godbey Law Employment Attorney

Source: The Gavel