State Court Follows Federal Precedent in Employee Free Speech Case

The California Court of Appeal has adopted the federal free speech standard in a state case involving a county law librarian who wrote a scathing email about his superiors and was terminated because of it. The employee sued for wrongful termination, contending in part that his termination violated his First Amendment rights under the California Constitution because the employer fired him because of what he had said in his email. The court rejected his claim. The court utilized the free speech test announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Garcetti case (Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006)). The same test was applied in a recent case from the Ninth Circuit which is written about elsewhere on our website (Huppert v. City of Pittsburgh). In brief, the court ruled that while an employee has a right to comment on public issues in general, when the comments also relate to work, a different standard applies, and if the comments interfere with the efficient administration of the workplace, disciplinary action can be taken in response to them. The case is Kaye v. Board of Trustees. A copy is attached.

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