Dixon to file First Amendment, discrimination suitsWritten by John Krudy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Crystal Dixon will file First Amendment and discrimination
lawsuits against UT after being fired for the views she
expressed in an online column for Toledo Free Press April 18.
“Supreme Court decisions remind us that the fact you are a
public employee doesn’t mean you give up your First Amendment rights,” said
Floyd Weatherspoon, a professor at Capital University Law School, in Columbus.
“The majority of her column is about her personal views, but she does mention
the university. The courts will have to decide if that converts the opinion to
her speaking in an official capacity.”
Dixon, who had been employed with the university since 2002, was fired May 8 by UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs. The
university offered her a what she described as a demotion, which she did not
Dixon said at her press conference May 14 that she had “hired
and recommended for hiring both homosexuals and heterosexuals.”
“At my pre-disciplinary meeting May 5, President Jacobs did
not display a single policy or procedure I had violated,” she said.
At her press conference May 14, Dixon and her local legal counsel,
Tom Sobecki, stressed that the main thrusts of her case would be the violation
of her First Amendment right to free speech, religious discrimination and
“Her speech was protected by the First Amendment,” said
Sobecki, a Toledo attorney specializing in employment law and civil rights.
“She wrote in her private capacity, which every citizen has the right to do.”
Dixon said she has retained the services of the Thomas More
Law Center (TMLC), which she described as “extremely aggressive when it comes
to First Amendment rights.”
Brian Rooney, a spokesman for TMLC, said Dixon’s speech was
“clearly” protected, according to Supreme Court precedent. He cited Garcetti v. Cebalos, a case the Court
decided in 2006. While Garcetti does
not protect free speech by public employees pursuant to their jobs, Rooney said
Dixon’s situation is different.
that a public employee can speak as a private citizen,” said Rooney.
Dixon also said she will file religious and racial
“We have the privilege of expressing views about our faith
in public,” Dixon said. She said Vice Provost Carol Bresnahan was never
sanctioned for her December 2007 column in The Blade, in which
Bresnahan criticized the “religious bigotry” of those who opposed Toledo’s
domestic partner law.
“It is not lost on me that [Bresnahan is a] white female and
that I, a black female who happens to be a Christian, am being treated
completely differently,” said Dixon in a letter she gave Jacobs at her
Sobecki said he would file Dixon’s First Amendment suit in
federal court, since federal courts have jurisdiction over constitutional
cases. Sobecki said he is required to file complaints with the Ohio Civil
Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Oppurtunity Commission (EEOC)
before taking the discrimination case to court.
“We can’t just file — we must go through the process,” Sobecki said. “But I think it’s both [religious and racial discrimination].”
Weatherspoon said courts are usually conservative on First
Amendment decisions, and supportive of employees. He cited Pickering v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ruled a
school had violated a teacher’s right to free speech by censuring him after he
criticized them in print.
“It all goes back to the primary issue, of whether she
was speaking as a private citizen,” said Weatherspoon. “If she was, the
demotion was a reprisal. If not, then the employer has a right to move her to a