The U.S. Supreme Court will determine whether government employees may sue their employers for violation of the First Amendment when the speech in question is a matter of private, rather than public, concern.
In the case, (Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri) a police chief, Charles Guarnieri, filed a union grievance after he was fired. Following two years of arbitration, Guarnieri was reinstated but his employer, the Borough of Duryea, provided him a list of things he could and could not do on the job. Guarnieri filed another grievance and an arbitrator ordered that the list be eliminated. Other disputes arose related to overtime and health insurance.
Eventually, Guarnieri filed a lawsuit, claiming that the disputes were retaliation for his reinstatement. A jury found in favor of Guarnieri. The Borough appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, arguing that the First Amendment does not protect government employees from retaliation except in matters of public concern. The appellate court, differing from all other federal circuits on this issue, agreed with the jury and found in favor of Guarnieri. The Borough appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Court agrees with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, government agencies could face expanded liability.
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