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Speech on Behalf of Union Protected Under First Amendment

Hubbard v. Clayton Co. Sch. Dist., et. al. (June 27, 2014) involves a former School District employee’s appeal of summary judgment in favor of the District. Hubbard claimed retaliation in violation of First Amendment rights due to his public statements regarding an accreditation investigation of the School District.

When employed, Hubbard was scheduled to be an assistant principal for the following school year, but his duties did not include talking to the press. However, he did hold the position of president of a private, non-profit professional organization (“GAE”) representing public educators, and in that capacity was charged to be the voice for the organization. While acting in capacity of president for GAE, he made comments to the press about the School District’s accreditation issue. Less than a month later, the School Board voted to discontinue any employee leave that was not allowed by Board Policy – which included Hubbard and three other employees. However, while the other three employees were allowed to return to employment with the District, Hubbard was not. Hubbard then submitted a resignation, but later tried to rescind when he learned of the other employees’ arrangements.

The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the District, finding that Hubbard spoke pursuant to official duties for the School District and, therefore, had no First Amendment protections. On appeal, the 11th Circuit vacated and remanded the decision, finding with Hubbard, that his speech was made in capacity of GAE, and not the District, and therefore, the District had no interest in controlling his speech.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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