Were her free speech rights violated?

Patricia McAllister was a substitute teacher working for the L.A. School District when she appeared at an Occupy LA rally and expressed some anti-Semitic views. Subsequently she was fired. Because she was a non-union “at-will” employee the termination was legal.

Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection asks whether she should have been fired:

The easy answer would be sure, fire her, she’s a despicable person.

But, her comments were not made at school. And while there’s no doubt that she is an anti-Semite, we’ve also seen hundreds of times here how the race card falsely is played against conservatives.

We’ve seen examples where the most innocuous use of words which sound like other words can lead to charges of racism, and of course, how criticism of Obama’s policies is deemed racist. Indeed, the entire Tea Party movement falsely has been condemned as racist.

If being racist (or anti-Semitic) completely outside one’s job is a ground for being fired, then how do we distinguish between charges of racism and false charges of racism. Who decides?

Donald Douglas, who has been the subject of attempts to get him fired from his job, writes:

The district’s decision reaches into the realm of personal space. And it should not. This is tyranny.

Admittedly this is a tough one, but I agree. So long as it’s completely outside the workplace and does not impact one’s ability to perform the job, what stays outside of work should stay outside of work.

Clearly what she said is protected by the First Amendment. She didn’t break any laws. Should any employer be allowed to fire an employee for legal activity on their own time? What about a public employer?

How would you craft a policy that prohibits racist speech by an employee on their own time that wouldn’t prohibit expressing opinions on issues like abortion and gay marriage?

Legal Insurrection has a poll.

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8 Responses to Were her free speech rights violated?

  1. HELENK says:

    do her comments and beliefs affect the ability to do her job?
    Most people would not want someone so filled with hatred towards others to teach their kids. Does she mark Jewish kids different then others? Does she teach hatred?
    All that would have to be answered, only because of the type of job she has

  2. DeniseVB says:

    I don’t think “hate speech” belongs in the classroom. Should be left up to the parents 🙂

  3. Mary says:

    She was only a temporary substitute without a contract.

    Is she accountable for her words as a teacher of children?

    I think she is.

  4. Lola-at-Large says:

    I think she should have been fired. Free speech is one thing, hate speech is another. There are Jewish children in LA schools and they don’t need someone who has demonstrated anti-Semitism to be in the pool of subs. I say this as a former teacher (thank you President Obama! /snark), albeit at the college level.

  5. votermom says:

    If the employer had a code of conduct and if they could show that she clearly violated it, then she can be fired, imo.

  6. yttik says:

    I’m pretty sure that when you work for the Gov, in a taxpayer supported position, you’re mandated to practice non discrimination policies. I think your employment is conditional on your compliance.

    Shirley Sherrod was fired pretty quickly over what the Obama administration mistakingly believed was hate speech.

  7. Three Wickets says:

    Spouting anti-semitic bigotry is not the same as expressing a point of view about abortion or gay marriage. It is hate speech, and it may be protected speech, but anyone capable of such speech shouldn’t be teaching in the public school system imo. I may not agree with the position, making public statements in support of pro-life or DOMA is not hate speech, though many issue advocates might claim that it is.

    Real hateful bigotry is a problem taught and conditioned at home and at school from an early age. The hateful sentiments are not genetic, they are not compelled by laws. They are taught by parents, teachers, and peers.

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