Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In the employment context, the First Amendment offers special protection to state and federal employees. Public employees have some extra job security as they cannot (at least not legally) be terminated for exercising their free-speech rights. (If you work for a private company, the First Amendment doesn’t do much for you because it’s a limit on government power, not private entities). If a public employee gets fired for saying something his government employer didn’t like, he may, in appropriate circumstances, be entitled to pursue a Section 1983 claim for monetary damages.
If you’ve been following the drama down in Pound, Virginia, you know that the town is on the verge of collapse. Town funds were embezzled, the Town Attorney was fired, and so many council members quit that the council was left without a quorum and unable to conduct business. This is a place that actually did defund the police, terminating the employment of the town’s entire police department. The town may or may not exist at the end of next year. But back to the Town Attorney. As a public employee, he enjoyed the First Amendment right to freely express his personal views without giving his employer grounds to terminate him. But according to the complaint he filed against former Town Council member Clifton Cauthorne and others (a complaint which, as an interesting aside, appears to have been written with a typewriter), the Town fired him in retaliation for his criticism of the Town’s Mayor. A federal judge recently opined that if the allegations in the complaint are true, the Town violated the attorney’s First Amendment rights.