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Free Speech in Workplace has Limits

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The law has been clear that a public sector employee cannot use “free speech” as a reason to disobey directives of a supervisor.  However, until this past year it was unclear whether the same law applied in the private sector.  When an employee of our client, Laboratory Corporation of America, was terminated for disagreeing with and disregarding his employer’s protocols, the  employee asserted free speech under the First Amendment as his defense, and this issue was thereby raised.  The trial court awarded $12 million of damages to the terminated employee, and our firm appealed this decision to the Connecticut Supreme Court.   In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court agreed with our arguments that an employer must be able to manage its workforce effectively and that the employee’s comments were insubordination rather than the exercise of free speech.