In a decision issued on June 19, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a public employee who was terminated after he testified in a case of corruption at Central Alabama Community College. Edward Lane worked as the Director of the college’s Community Intensive Training for Youth (CITY) program . While conducting an audit, Lane discovered that a state representative, Susan Schmitz, was on the program’s payroll despite the fact she had not done any work for the program.
As detailed in this npr article, at the same time the FBI was investigating Schmitz, CITY was experiencing budget concerns. After Lane testified against Schmitz, Central Alabama Community College president Steve Franks terminated Lane’s employment with the college. Under the guise of budget cuts, Franks terminated an additional 28 employees and two days later rehired all but two, of which Lane was one of the two.
In a suit claiming that Franks had violated his First Amendment protections, Lane named Franks in his individual and official capacity as president of the school. Two lower courts found in favor of Franks, stating that Lane acted in his official capacity in terminating Schmitz and could not claim protection under the First Amendment.
In its opinion issued today, the Supreme Court found in favor of Lane, stating that he testified “as a citizen on a matter of public concern.” In reference to Lane’s trial testimony, the court called it “a quintessential example of citizen speech for the simple reason that anyone who testifies in court bears an obligation, to the court and society at large, to the tell the truth.”
If you or someone you know believes they have been retaliated against and/or wrongfully terminated, the team at Radford & Keebaugh can help. Contact us by phone at (678) 369-3609 or use our contact form.