What's at Stake
Whether the First Amendment’s guarantee of a right to petition the government for redress of grievances protects a public employee against retaliation for bringing an employment-related lawsuit against his public employer.
The right to petition the government for redress of grievances is one of the central guarantees of the First Amendment and has long been understood to include the right to seek a resolution of disputes with the government by invoking the government’s formal adjudicatory processes, including litigation. The ACLU’s amicus brief argues that public employees do not forfeit this right when they accept a job with the government and that the right to sue the government does not depend on whether the underlying grievance involves a matter of public concern or private concern. Finally, we argue that the existence of the right necessarily means that the government may not retaliate against public employees who sue their public employer or pursue statutorily recognized arbitration.