CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES-BLACK LIVES MATTER

July 5th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Amalgamated Transit Union v. Port Auth. of Allegheny Cnty., 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 17951 (3rd Cir. June 29, 2022) (Porter, C.J.)  Beginning in April 2020, the Port Authority of Allegheny County (“Port Authority”) required its uniformed employees to wear face masks at work. Some employees wore masks bearing political or social-protest messages. Concerned that such masks would disrupt its workplace, Port Authority prohibited them in July 2020. When several employees wore masks expressing support for Black Lives Matter, Port Authority disciplined them under this policy. In September 2020, Port Authority imposed additional restrictions, confining employees to a narrow range of masks. Together with their union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 (“Local 85”), the employees sued, alleging that Port Authority had violated their First Amendment rights. The District Court entered a preliminary injunction rescinding discipline imposed under the July policy and preventing Port Authority from enforcing its policy against “Black Lives Matter” masks. Port Authority appeals. The government may limit the speech of its employees more than it may limit the speech of the public, but those limits must still comport with the protections of the First Amendment. Port Authority bears the burden of showing that its policy is constitutional. It has not made that showing. We will affirm the District Court’s order. Even controversial speech on political and social issues often does not disrupt Port Authority’s operations. Port Authority’s fear that “Black Lives Matter” and other controversial masks might cause disruption to its service is more than merely conjectural. But Port Authority has not shown that the “broad range of present and future expression” its policy forbids will disrupt operations. NTEU, 513 U.S. at 468. Our decision is narrow. We hold only that at this early stage Port Authority has not shown that its mask policies withstand constitutional scrutiny and, so, the District Court did not abuse its discretion to enjoin enforcement of that policy against “Black Lives Matter” masks. Another policy, another message, a uniform requirement, or another set of interests may be different. In each case the specific facts and circumstances will be dispositive. In this case, we will affirm the District Court.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]