Monday, June 27, 2011

Hotseat: Sitting in the Wrong Place Can Get You Fired.

An employee was fired because she sat next to her boss at a public School Board meeting to decide whether her boss was to be fired.  That's it.  There was no evidence she was disruptive or likely to cause trouble.  She was fired because she showed support for her boss.

The employee, Nichols, claimed her firing violated her First Amendment rights of attending a public meeting, and freedom of association.  She claimed she was caught in crossfire between the District and her former boss. Her boss happened to be General Counsel for the District [I suspect he helped her frame her 1st Amendment claim]. 

The rule is that a government employer is limited to disciplining an employee only in cases where the conduct is not actually disruptive, or likely to lead to disruption of employer business.  The District could not or did not produce that evidence.  It merely established that Nichols was friends with her boss and that they associated off-site.  Not good enough reasoned the Court. 

Nichols v. Dancer, Washoe County School District (9th Cir., 6-24-2011) 2011 DJDAR 9402.