Thinking about whistleblowing? Read this.

Governments have wide latitude to punish whistleblowing employees, latest Supreme Court decision finds.

The Supreme Court yesterday handed down a decision that impacts all government employees, so it's worth taking note of here, although the case has no direct IT angle. With Justice Kennedy siding with the conservative branch of Robert, Scalia, Thomas and Alito, the Supreme Court strongly narrowed the rights of of government whistleblowers.

The Washington Post reports:

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the courts should not be displacing "managerial discretion" over the behavior of employees by intruding in decisions that are wholly related to the workplace. "Employers have heightened interests in controlling speech made by an employee in his or her professional capacity.

"Official communications," he said, "have official consequences. . . ."

In Garcetti et al v. Richard Ceballos, a deputy district attorny in LA testified for the defense after writing a memo critical of a criminal warrant. He was reassigned and denied a promotion as a result, he said. Because Ceballos wrote the memo as part of his duties, the Court said:

He spoke "as a prosecutor fulfilling a responsibility to advise his supervisor about how best to proceed with a pending case. . . . We hold that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline."

In a dissent Justice Souter wrote: "I would hold that private and public interests in addressing official wrongdoing and threats to health and safety can outweigh the governments stake in the efficient implementation of policy and when they do public employees who speak on these matters in the course of their duties should be eligible to claim First Amendment protections."

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