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Do Public Employees Have a Right to Sue for Violations of Freedom of Speech?

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Last year, on October 31, 2012, a jury awarded a state employee, Mark Jordan, a verdict of $150,000 against the State of NH for violations of RSA 98-E. That statute provides that anyone in government who interferes in any way with the right of freedom of speech, full criticism or disclosure by a public employee is liable for damages and attorneys fees. The state requested that the court set aside the jury verdict, but on April 26, 2012, the Superior Court upheld the jury verdict and ordered a hearing on attorneys’ fees.

The trial court ruled that the jury was justified in finding interference against Mr. Jordan, who was the head of the union that represented the correctional workers at the state prisons. The broad purpose of the statute is to protect government employees and provide a full right to publically discuss opinions. The claim at trial was that the Department of Corrections had interfered with that right.

If you are a public employee in NH and you think that your rights are being interfered with in terms of speaking out against government corruption or improprieties, feel free to contact us. This was the first verdict received by a state employee under RSA 98-E so we have the experience to assist you if you feel you have a claim.