Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Consumer Columnist Firing a Free Speech Issue?

George Gombossy, who was fired by the Hartford Courant in a brazen surrender to a major advertiser, has sued the Courant for wrongful termination. He's basing his suit on a Connecticut statute that, Gombossy notes, "protects workers from retribution for exercising their First Amendment rights in the workplace."

I wish Gombossy well, and I hope he can find some kind of legal basis for prevailing, but I have my doubts. The statute, discussed here, applies to situations in which an employee mouths off at work. A previous court ruling, mentioned in the article I just linked, makes it clear it's not for situations like this.

Is this a "there oughta be a law" situation? Not necessarily. The law can't protect newspaper employees, and their readers, from craven, cowardly editors. Like it or not, the First Amendment in situations like this is a right of the publisher, not the reporter.

Again, I emphasize: this firing stank, and I hope Gombossy can figure out a way to collect. I just don't see it happening as a free-speech issue.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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