Retaliation For Whistleblowing: Public Employees Have First Amendment Protections – 42 U.S. Code § 1983 (Municipal Liability)

42 U.S. Code § 1983 (Freedom of Speech – First Amendment) – Municipal Liability

Municipal employees are protected against retaliation for speaking up about government wrongdoing.  To establish a prima facie case of retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show “(1) that they engaged in a protected activity; (2) that the employer took an adverse employment action against them; (3) that a causal connection existed between the protected activity and the asserted adverse action.”  King v. Rumsfeld, 328 F.3d 145, 150-51 (4th Cir. 2003)

Under the First Amendment, a public employee has a qualified right to speak on matters of public concern.

  1. A public employee has to be speaking as a citizen and not as part of his or her official duties.
  2. A public employee’s speech must be on a matter of public concern.
  3. In order to establish municipal liability, a public employee’s speech must result in an adverse employment action (harassment, denial of promotion, demotion, deprivation of benefits, suspension, termination, etc.).

Public employees have First Amendment protections.  Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968)

“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress…”  42 U.S.C. § 1983

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire




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