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Are New Hampshire Public Employees Protected When They Criticize the Government?

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NH Public Employee Freedom of Expression – New Hampshire has a unique law that permits all public employees to speak out on issues of public importance and gives them the full right of freedom of speech, criticism or disclosure.  The law is RSA 98-E:2 and is called the “Public Employee Freedom of Expression.”  The catch is in who is a public employee.

The law includes any person employed by the state or subdivision as well as counties, cities, towns, precincts, water districts, school districts, and school administrative units.  A recent New Hampshire court case involved whether a local housing authority employee was protected as a public employee because the law did not specifically list a housing authority.  The New Hampshire Superior Court concluded that an employee of the Somersworth Housing Authority was protected in speaking out on problems at the Authority.

Protected Criticism by Public Employer

The employee had expressed his opinion on how poorly he thought the agency had treated one of its clients and therefore that could reasonably be considered an opinion expressed about the housing authority’s policies, procedures, and handling of a personnel matter.  The Superior Court judge concluded that the employee was protected from being fired for such criticism.

Remedies for Public Employees

A public employee is entitled to file a civil action to recover damages for a violation of the law and have a trial before a judge or jury.  If the public employee wins, the court may order the employer to pay the employee’s attorney’s fees.

Private employees do not have the same protection as public employees, but if you are concerned about wanting to speak out about things that you see going bad, feel free to give us a call to help make sure your rights are protected when punishment is around the corner.  We obtained a verdict of $150,000 for a state employee who was critical of conditions at the State Prison.

If you have an employment issue, it is important to contact one of our employment law attorneys at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. Call us at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.