ERIC Number: ED219819
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1982-Apr
Reference Count: 0
Constitutional Free Speech Protections for the Public Employee: Close Enough for Government Work?
A case review study of court decisions concerning public employees' constitutional right of free speech yields conflicting and sometimes disturbing results. The most often cited precedent in these decisions is the 1968 Supreme Court ruling in "Pickering v. Board of Education" in which a letter from a school teacher to a newspaper criticizing a school board decision was found to be protected speech. However, "Pickering" balances the free speech rights of the employee against the need for organizational efficiency. In writing the opinion, Justice Marshall declared that this "Pickering balance" must be applied on a case by case basis. A 1979 Supreme Court decision, "Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School District," extended protection to internal speech communication not aimed at the general public. A survey of court decisions, however, reveals that even this modified "Pickering balance" often yields decisions in which matters of coworker harmony, the superior/subordinate relationship, and organizational reputation outweigh free speech protection. Although courts have made the analogy between protected speech in society and in organizations, they have preferred the "ad hoc" balancing of the "Pickering" test over the implications of the analogy itself. Extending the analogy while protecting employer rights through special provisions would yield better results and simplify the courts' tasks. (JL)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Pickering v Board of Education; Supreme Court
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Business Communication Association (Indianapolis, IN, April 1982).