Letter: The right to speak out

Wednesday, January 03, 2018
The right to speak out

As local towns, cities and school districts begin preparing budgets for the spring, it is worth remembering that in this state, RSA 98-E extends to every public employee, at any level, “a full right to publicly discuss and give opinions as an individual on all matters concerning any government entity and its policies.”

In 2012, a Merrimack County jury awarded a state employee $150,000 for having his freedom of speech interfered with when he was publicly critical of his employer, the state prison, for some of its policies and procedures that posed a threat to the safety of the corrections officers.

In other words, you must speak out as an individual and not in your official government capacity, but once you do, any interference with your right to freely criticize or disclose matters of interest to the public may not be interfered with. If your rights are interfered with you may seek damages as well as attorney’s fees.

Also, everyone should be reminded that the Whistleblower Protection Act, RSA 275-E:2, provides that no employer may intimidate, threaten or fire any employee because that employee in good faith reports what he or she believes is a violation of a law or rule adopted by any government entity.

Thus, public employees should ignore orders by higher-ups to shut up and not comment on matters the public should know about.



(The writer is a former congressman and N.H. Supreme Court judge practicing law in Concord. )