Public employees are supposed to be immune from punishment or retaliation based on their political associations and activities. This protection derives from the First Amendment which "prohibits a government employer from discharging or demoting an employee because the employee supports a particular political candidate," the Supreme Court ruled long ago in establishing one of the most widely-disregarded in Kentucky employment rules. But what if the employer is mistaken about the employee's political activity or support for a candidate and takes action against the employee based on that mistaken information? No matter, the Supreme Court ruled this term in Heffernan v. City of Paterson:
When an employer demotes an employee out of a desire to prevent the employee from engaging in political activity that the First Amendment protects, the employee is entitled to challenge that unlawful action under the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- even if, as here, the employer makes a factual mistake about the employee's behavior.
Paterson, New Jersey, in addition to being the hometown of the great poet Allen Ginsberg, is also the situs for the wrongful prosecution and conviction of champion boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter memorialized by the Bob Dylan song, "Hurricane""