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Complaint About Chief’s Affairs Not Protected Speech

Complaint About Chief’s Affairs Not Protected Speech

In Garcetti v. Ceballos the Supreme Court held that if a public employee engages in speeches as part of the job, the First Amendment gives the employee no protection, and the employer is free to retaliate against the employee even if the speech is completely true. This ruling has led to hundred of public safety employees losing their free speech claims.

Walter Young was a lieutenant in the Irvington, NJ Police Department. Young took issue with the Police Chief’s alleged improper sexual relationships with subordinates and filed an internal affairs complaint. Young was eventually terminated for not disciplining an officer who was caught sleeping on the job. Young filed a federal court lawsuit alleging that his termination was retaliation for the internal affairs complaint he filed against the Chief and that those complaints were protected by the First Amendment.

The Federal Appeals Court dismissed Young’s lawsuit. The Court stated that a statement will be protected by the First Amendment if 1) the employee is speaking as a citizen; 2) the statement involved a matter of public concern; and 3) the government employer did not have an adequate justification for treating the employee differently from any other member of the general public as a result of the statement. The Court stated that Young did not speak as a private citizen, but it was part of his job as a lieutenant to file Internal Affairs complaints.

Young v. Township of Irvington, 2015 WL 6123228 (3d. Cir. 2015)

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