WATERS v. CHURCHILL

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
92-1450
Petitioner 
Waters
Respondent 
Churchill
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(As amicus curiae supporting the petitioners)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

A public hospital fired an obstetrics nurse, Cheryl Churchill, for insubordination after she allegedly complained about her superiors to a nurse trainee during a dinner break in the hospital's obstetrics unit. Churchill claimed that the hospital fired her because she opposed its policy of nurse cross-training and said it was leaving certain units understaffed.

Question 

Was Churchill's firing impermissible under the First Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Waters, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

Yes, but the Court was unable to forge a majority opinion. A four-justice plurality held that government workers cannot be dismissed or otherwise punished for their words unless the employer has a reasonable basis for believing that the speech either was disruptive or involved a matter of purely private concern, outside the scope of the First Amendment's protection. The hospital need not conduct a full-scale investigation, but it must have some reasonable, factual basis for its actions.

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WATERS v. CHURCHILL. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1993/1993_92_1450>.
WATERS v. CHURCHILL, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1993/1993_92_1450 (last visited December 26, 2014).
"WATERS v. CHURCHILL," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 26, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1993/1993_92_1450.