First Amendment Rights

By DiCesare, Constance B. | Monthly Labor Review, October 1996 | Go to article overview

First Amendment Rights


DiCesare, Constance B., Monthly Labor Review


Two recent Supreme Court decisions have extended important First Amendment protections to independent contractors. Ruling 7-2 in each case, the High Court declared that the claims of independent contractors who allege that a public entity has violated their free speech and association rights should be judged by the same legal standards that apply to the claims of full-fledged government employees. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from each majority opinion.

The first case, Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr,(8) involved a trash hauler's at-will contract with a county in Kansas. During the term of his contract, Keen A. Umbehr was an outspoken critic of the county's governing body, the Board of County Commissioners. He spoke at board meetings and wrote letters and editorials in local newspapers, alleging, among other things, that the board had mismanaged taxpayers' money. The board responded by threatening to censor the official county newspaper for publishing Umbehr's writings and, in 1991, it terminated the trash hauler's contract. The following year, Umbehr sued the board members who had voted to end his contract, claiming that they had done so in retaliation for criticisms he had made of the county and its board.

The district court granted summary judgment to the board, holding that independent contractors like Umbehr are not entitled to the First Amendment protections that are given to public employees.(9) The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed, holding that the First Amendment does protect independent contractors from retaliatory government action.(10) The Supreme Court affirmed.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, for the Court, expressed concern that recognizing a "brightline" rule that distinguishes between government employees and independent contractors on free speech issues "would give the government carte blanche to terminate independent contractors for exercising First Amendment rights."(11) In her view, such a rule "would leave First Amendment rights unduly dependent on whether state law labels a government service provider's contract as a contract of employment or a contract for services."(12) She conceded that independent contractors and government employees are, in some respects, different, but she said that any such difference is not a difference of constitutional magnitude.

Instead of applying a "brightline" rule, Justice O'Connor said that the Court should apply the same balancing-of-interests test that it uses to determine whether government workers' First Amendment rights have been abridged. That test, which was first announced in Pickering v. Board of Education,(13) balances the interests of the employee, as a citizen, in commenting on matters of public concern, against the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of its public services. By taking into account the government's interest - in this case its interest as a contractor - this test can accommodate the legitimate differences between contractors and employees, she concluded.

In the other First Amendment case, O'Hare Truck Service, Inc. v. City of Northlake,(14) an Illinois towing service was removed from a city's list of contractors after the owner of the service refused to contribute to the mayor's campaign and instead supported his opponent. The trucking owner filed suit, claiming that the removal was in retaliation for his campaign stance. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that it was bound by legal precedent in the Seventh Circuit, which did not give contractors the same First Amendment protections from dismissal that public employees enjoy if they refuse to support a political candidate. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

First Amendment Rights
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.