CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT

Due Process rights under the 14th Amendment granted to public employees in 1972 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Regents v Roth.

Equal Protection rights are also provided under the 14th Amendment. In 1976 the Supreme Court in Washington v. Davis required plaintiffs to show a discriminatory purpose in order to successfully challenge a written exam, which had a harsh racial impact. This decision suggested that human resource practices having a disparate impact on protected groups, when challenged on constitutional grounds, will generally be upheld unless they have a discriminatory intent.

Free Speech – The Supreme Court ruling in Pickering v Board of Education protects public employee’s freedom of expression as long as it does not impair discipline and harmony in the workplace, breach confidentiality, impede job performance, or jeopardize close personal loyalty. Also Rankin v. McPherson provides protection for “whistle blowing” activities.

Freedom of Association – The right to join or not to join organizations (includes unions and political parties).

The Right to Privacy –These rights are derived from the 4th Amendment which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Liberty involves many personal issues regarding things such as dress codes and grooming standards, and residency requirements. Restrictions are allowed as long as they are not arbitrary, capricious or unfairly enforced.

Personal Liability of Public Officials – A public official who violates either the constitutional or statutory rights of employees is exposed to personal tort liability and may be personally sued.