There is an interesting free speech case brewing in Traverse City, Michigan where officer Michael Peters was suspended Sunday with pay after he was seen off-duty driving a pickup truck bearing a Confederate flag. He was seen near a group protesting Donald Trump’s election as president. The case raises, again, the right of public employees to engage in protected speech in their personal time and private lives.
I have previously written about concerns that public employees are increasingly being disciplined for actions in their private lives or views or associations outside of work. We have previously seen teachers (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) students (here, here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here and here and here).
In this case, O’Brien confirmed that a photo showed Peters at the rally Friday with the flag. However, the flag is a form of protected speech and there is no allegation that Peters invoked or referenced his public position. There is also no reference to an express threat as opposed to the fact that many view the flag as a hateful symbol.
What do you think?