NAPE member Cathy Garrity was shocked when she received a formal notice of allegations regarding a comment she made on a WOWT-TV news story about a parolee who was resentenced to prison. She made the comment on her own device, on non-work time, and it contained no confidential or controversial information. Regardless, the Board of Parole decided to discipline Cathy in the form of a written warning.
NAPE members have access to our professional staff at no charge to represent them in disciplinary meetings. After Cathy was disciplined, a grievance was filed on her behalf. The grievance proceeded to the final stage of the process – binding arbitration, however, just prior to the hearing, the Board of Parole decided to rescind the disciplinary action, and the records were removed from Cathy’s personnel file.
State employees do not surrender their free speech rights when they work for the state, however, public employees can be disciplined for their public speech if the matter is of private concern (such as a complaint about a manager or other personal situation), if the speech creates an interruption to agency operations, or if the agency has a compelling need to control employee behavior. In Cathy’s case, the post was a matter of public concern, and discipline for such a post was inappropriate.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to meet with a supervisor regarding anything that might lead to your discipline, it is important to have a union representative with you at the meeting. You can always contact us here.