Retaliation in the workplace is never a good thing to have to deal with. Nor is it very legal either, but it’s something one assistant state’s attorney had to deal with when he was fired from his position after testifying against another attorney. Though his claims of wrongful termination were initially dismissed by the District Court, the 7th Circuit Court has since reversed the decision, allowing the man to move forward with his claims of retaliation.
Although the case took place in Illinois, because it happened in the 7th Circuit, people here in Indiana could be affected by the court’s decision. Here’s what happened in the case:
Prior to the assistant state’s attorney’s retaliatory discharge, he had provided a testimony regarding the state’s attorney and whether he had improperly influenced the handling of a case. The assistant claims that although his testimony was protected by the First Amendment, he was still fired in December 2011. According to the District Court, his statement was not protected by the First Amendment because it would have been considered part of his job. The 7th Circuit Court disagreed.
As the three-judge panel explained in their decision, the testimony provided by the assistant was no different from what could have been said to another employee and therefore did not qualify as part of his official job responsibilities. As a result, his statements would fall under First Amendment protection, making his wrongful termination claims valid in the end.
Although it’s unclear if the case has been remanded to the lower courts at this time, the court’s decision does mean that the assistant state’s attorney can move forward with his claims of wrongful termination and argue his case once more.
Source: Courthouse News, "Retaliation Claims May Hook Illinois Prosecutor," Joe Harris, Aug. 6, 2013