The author is a professor at Cleveland State University’s Department of Counseling, Administration, Supervision and Adult Learning, and a licensed Ohio state attorney with a practice in employment law. She has served as a public school director of personnel, principal and teacher in Connecticut public schools, and has published extensively in the areas of collective bargaining and employment law.
When a public employee is dismissed for speaking out and then challenges the dismissal, the arbitrator must decide whether the employee’s speech is constitutionally protected—thereby removing it as just cause for firing. The author argues that a 1994 Supreme Court decision in Waters v. Churchill has presented a new perspective in these cases by changing the arbitrable issue.
The free speech rights of public employees have frequently played a significant role in their dismissal challenges. Repeatedly public sector arbitrators have been asked to decide whether speech giving rise to dismissal is constitutionally protected thereby removing it as just cause for firing.