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Fired California teacher says her free speech rights were violated

Many of us who work in the San Diego area would probably admit that we act a little differently when we are in the office compared to when we are at home relaxing with family or out having fun with friends. We understand that there are lines that should not be crossed at work and that we should act professionally while in the workplace in order to do our jobs effectively and efficiently. But can workers in California be fired for their behavior or for what they say outside of the workplace while off the clock?

One former substitute teacher from a school district in California recently filed a lawsuit against her ex-employer citing wrongful termination. The woman claims that the school fired her after she made anti-Semitic remarks during an interview about her participation in the Occupy L.A. rally last fall.

Because the teacher's remarks were made while the teacher was off duty, her lawsuit states that the school district violated her First Amendment rights to free speech by firing her over the comments.

According to the lawsuit, the substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District was interviewed on Oct. 12, 2011, for a story that was covering the Occupy L.A. rally. On video, the woman explained that she was participating in the rally to protest budget cuts in public education. But during the interview, the woman also made an anti-Semitic remark. The video was later posted on YouTube, and the woman was fired on Oct. 18.

The woman's lawsuit argues that the school should not have fired her over the comments because she was not working at the time the comments were made. She claims that by firing her, the school deprived her of her rights under the California Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. She is hoping to get her job back. She is also hoping to be compensated for other damages ensuing from the wrongful termination including emotional distress.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Teacher Wants Her Job Back After Anti-Semitic Comments," Matt Reynolds, May 17, 2012