More than 20 million Americans work for federal, state or local governments. Sometimes these employees are disciplined for speaking out against government corruption, belonging to a particular political party, criticizing agency policy or engaging in private conduct of which the employer disapproves. Granted, government employers need some leeway when dealing with their employees. After all, the primary function of a government agency is to provide efficient services to the public, and if a government employer were second-guessed every time it disciplined a public employee, services could grind to a halt. On the other hand, such employers do not have unfettered discretion to discipline employees whose speech content they dislike. Like any other public entity, a government employer must conform to principles set forth in the First Amendment.
David L. Hudson, Jr., "Balancing Act: Public Employees and Free Speech," First Amendment Center-First Reports 3, no. 2 (December 2002).