Justices Unanimously Back Public Employee Whistleblower

Friday, June 20, 2014

Justices Unanimously Back Public Employee Whistleblower(Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO)

In a win for unions, public workers and whistleblowers, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 19 unanimously backed an Alabama whistleblower whom his boss illegally fired for testifying about fraud to a grand jury and a trial jury.

The 9-0 ruling cheered the National Education Association (NEA), whose Alabama affiliate – the largest and most-influential union in the state – provided the attorneys for whistleblower Edward Lane in lower court arguments.

Lane was fired after testifying before a grand jury and later at trials of a state legislator who got a no-show job at a program run by the community college Lane worked for.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel cheered the court’s ruling, but said the justices should have extended it to every instance where a public worker speaks out. “The Supreme Court took an important step in ensuring the free speech rights of public employees by concluding Lane’s testimony was speech as a citizen on a matter of public concern,” Van Roekel said.  While “we are pleased the court recognized public employees are indeed protected by the 1st Amendment when they testify…we are disappointed the court did not go further to establish a clear rule that sworn testimony by public employees should never be the basis for any retaliatory action by a public employer.  The decision was too narrow.  Public employees who have the courage to stand up and speak out to improve public services and prevent corruption should be protected from retaliation.” Read more here. 
- Mark Gruenberg, PAI Staff Writer



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