Rutgers-Newark SPAA Case Simulations Portal for Public and Nonprofit Sectors
Rutgers-Newark School of Public Administration and Affairs
Place of Publication
Ceding a portion of one’s right to free speech has long been an expectation of public service, but social media has facilitated new forms of conflict, testing the bounds of acceptable private behavior. Though technological innovation has far outpaced slowly evolving legal doctrines, a number of precedents may be used as general guidelines as to acceptable forms of employee speech. The U.S. Supreme Court uses the Pickering Balance Test, a proposition by which an official’s speech is defensible if one speaks on an issue of public concern, and such actions do not disrupt the efficiency of agency operations. Garcetti vs. Ceballos (2007) extended this axiom to define that internal processes (particularly personnel matters) do not fit this distinction, and thus speech on these issues may not be afforded protection. This paper provides a brief assessment of these legal doctrines by reviewing three case studies. First, Hispanics United explores the distinction between individual and collective forms of speech online, the latter of which is protected under National Labor Relations Act. Then, we examine two teacher firings that have evidenced an inconsistent application of these doctrines by administrative judges, as detailed within the Rubino and O’Brien cases. The divergent outcomes can largely be attributed to nature of the offending speech, the publicness of the conflict, and the loss of trust between the public employee and the community they serve.
Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration
Stephen W. Kleinschmit and Byoung Joon Kim (2014).
Social Media and the Government Employee: Reconciling Our Public & Private Digital Identities. Rutgers-Newark SPAA Case Simulations Portal for Public and Nonprofit Sectors. Newark: Rutgers-Newark School of Public Administration and Affairs.
Available for download on Thursday, January 23, 2020