Sometimes standing up for the right thing can be hard, and when it involves calling out peers or superiors, the odds of swift retribution can seem too high for the risk. However, multiple government regulators have made it clear that retaliation against whistleblowers will not go unpunished, and that point was further solidified by the Supreme Court in a decision on June 19th.
The case in question relates to the lay-off of community college employee Edward Lane in Alabama. Following his testimony in 2006 that a high ranking state official was on the books as an employee for the school but did not actually work there, Lane was fired.
Lane charged that his lay-off was retaliation for his testimony, but lower courts dismissed the suit. According to the Wall Street Journal, the lower court used a Supreme Court precedent from 2006 that held a deputy district attorney could be disciplined for testifying on police misconduct associated with cases being brought by his office.
The SCOTUS unanimously reversed a lower court decision, saying it had applied the 2006 precedent too broadly. It was also pointed out that Lane had been subpoenaed in the corruption trial, and therefore did not have a choice to testify or not.
In the opinion written by Justice Sotomayor, the court said, “speech by citizens on matters of public concern lies at the heart of the First Amendment, which “was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about political and social changers desired by the people…This remains true when speech concerns information related to or learned through public employment.”
The case has now been sent back to lower court.