A spokesperson from the Minnesota Senate has said that a man involved in a recent political dispute on Twitter is no longer employed by the legislative body. The controversy began last week after the former staffer posted some disparaging comments about a state representative with whom he had a difference of opinion.
The staffer was involved in what many local news outlets described as an online altercation, in which he said some unkind things about a state lawmaker who had broken with party lines on a controversial issue.
It is not clear at this time whether the former staffer will pursue a case against the state senate, or if the end of his employment at the senate violated any free speech rights afforded to government employees. There is no information available at this time as to whether he was fired or resigned. If he was fired, he could have a wrongful termination lawsuit claim. If he resigned, he may still be able to argue that he was forced out of his job because of a hostile work environment. However, since he was the instigator of the online confrontation that may be a difficult argument to make.
In any situation, Minnesota employees must be aware of the boundaries of their free speech rights. No one should be fired for exercising their right to free speech, but employees also need to be cautious not to get into a discussion with a coworker that borders on harassment. Experienced employment law attorneys can help decipher the facts of a specific situation.
Source: MPR News, “Staffer involved in Twitter altercation no longer employed by Senate,” Tom Scheck, Nov. 2, 2012.