Below is a court case for you to review and test your HR legal knowledge. Review the facts of the case, decide which side you think prevailed and find out if you are correct.
The case: First Amendment – Epstein v. Suffolk Community College (E.D.N.Y. 2:14-CV-00937)
- Supreme Court Rule – A public employee speaking as part of his or her job duties does not qualify for First Amendment speech protection.
- Plaintiff was a professor at Suffolk Community College and served as coordinator of the college’s honor program for seven years prior to having his position eliminated due to budgetary reasons.
- Plaintiff publicly criticized the college and its honor’s program, objecting to the college permitting unqualified students to enroll in the program.
- Plaintiff alleged that the college’s advertising, admissions and campus budget policies had a disparate impact on minority students because of “racist overtones” and “failed to feature any minority students.”
- Plaintiff alleged the college’s funds were distributed unequally among campuses, with favor going to the predominantly Caucasian campus.
- Plaintiff alleged that in response to his speech, the college denied him a promotion and took away his coordinator position that he held for seven years.
- The college defended itself saying his speech was not protected by the First Amendment and his coordinator position was eliminated for budgetary reasons.
The Question: Is a college professor’s criticism of the college honor’s program and additional racial bias allegations protected under the First Amendment?
The plaintiff’s speech was inherent to his role as professor and therefore was not protected by the First Amendment. The court noted that the plaintiff’s speech was a means to fulfill his responsibilities and not protected.