New Orleans’ authorities has agreed to vary its social media coverage for workers, after settling a free speech lawsuit filed by two public library staff in opposition to City Hall, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and her high deputy, chief administrative officer Gilbert Montaño.
Andrew Okun and Erin Wilson alleged of their 2021 go well with that Policy 83(R), issued by Montaño a yr earlier, was an unconstitutional effort to regulate what staff stated of their free time, on public social media channels resembling Tik Tok and even on non-public messaging providers resembling Slack.
Last week, City Hall revised the coverage, dropping references to what staff could say in non-public messaging apps on their very own time. The revision additionally removes imprecise directives, resembling “avoid the offensive” or “do not engage or respond to negative or disparaging posts about city departments, employees or policies.”
Okun, who nonetheless works for the administration, stated he feels vindicated.
“Generally speaking, when you have a city administration going out of its way to silence its own workers, that’s a bad sign,” he stated. “And I think our case pointed to that. That’s why we fought, and that’s why we won.”
Wilson, who prefers to be referenced by plural pronouns, was significantly involved in regards to the earlier coverage as a result of they’re transgender, put up often on Tik Tok and as soon as appeared with their face obscured in a WWL-TV report, to talk out in opposition to Cantrell’s preliminary plan to maintain public libraries open to guests within the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Wilson has left the library system to show in an area highschool, however was thrilled by the coverage change, regardless that it now not applies to them.
“For a long time, I felt like it was impossible to effect meaningful change,” Wilson stated. “This experience showed me it is possible. And it feels empowering. It doesn’t matter that I’m a teacher now.”
Cantrell’s administration stated Thursday it modified the coverage to “provide guidance that addresses concerns of inappropriate disclosure of nonpublic information, ensures employees are not subject to workplace harassment and protects the privacy rights of city employees and citizens, all while respecting our employees’ rights to free expression.”
Katie Schwartzmann, a Tulane Law School professor and former legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, represented Okun and Wilson in their lawsuit. She said she had never seen a policy “that goes this far in regulating private activity of all city workers.”
Both balked at new coverage however had been required to signal it to maintain their jobs
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