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I wrote a brief letter to the editor about my city being sued by residents and my employer, a school district gave me a "letter of direction" that dissolved my job.

The matter is headed to courtm but you can read about it on the blog site. The blog entry is called "Squeezing out a good one".

The blog address is www.esd15.org

You'd need to do some legal research for your jurisdiction, to see if the test framed in this opinion is the same for you. To get a start, click on the first link in this post to get to Library Employment at LibraryLaw.com
Also see The Library's Legal Answer Book by Minow and Lipinski (ALA:2003)

Question: can a public employee be reprimanded with a disciplinary memo because the employee wrote something in an online class, even though the written comments of the employee were protected speech and had nothing adverse to say about his employer, nor created havoc in the work place?

Hi,
Perhaps you can help me understand something. I'm trying to understand First Amendment rights as a librarian and as an employee. Recently, I was assigned by my supervisor to take an online class. This was my first experience taking on online Internet class. The subject: time management.

When I finished the class, my supervisor met with me privately. She handed me a disciplinary memo and said, sternly, “Admin wants to chop your head off.” I was certainly surprised. The online class teacher had complained about my written comments in the class. Rather than providing the entire coursework, the teacher selectively emailed my remarks to my employer. Nothing I wrote was profane, fighting words or outside protected speech. The online teacher, someone I’ve never met or spoken to, did not return my emails to her to learn what it was I had written that she complained about. Neither has my employer stated exactly what her complaint was about. The disciplinary memo has a disturbing vagueness. I’ve shown it to 2 labor law attorneys. Each attorney said it’s “clearly politically motivated.”

All my job performance reviews prior to the above disciplinary memo have been rated “competent” or better. I’ve been working with my union in the grievance process but the union stewards lack knowledge about law and in particular the First Amendment.

What I think makes this case unique is that it took place within a “digital campus,” outside the workplace; even though I took it on city time and as a city employee, within the educational forum of a class, I’d assume it’s in public’s interest that speech be free as defined by the first amendment.

My supervisor, prior to becoming my supervisor, worked in a library department that hires and contracts with the online class company. It’s my belief that my supervisor followed up with a disciplinary memo against me as a way to appease her online teaching friends.

Any suggestions on how to deal with this are gratefully appreciated. I believe the political damage the memo had done is irreparable.


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