Zorn sponsors public employee ‘free speech’ bill

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn has introduced legislation to protect public employees who speak with elected officials.

“Over the years, several local public employees have expressed concerns to me that they worry about their job or their career if they communicate with their elected representatives,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Many of these folks are afraid to speak with their local elected officials out of fear of retribution in employment considerations. I introduced this legislation to provide protections for public employees who wish to help improve their state and communities by simply talking with their elected leaders.”

Senate Bill 1086 would prohibit a public employer from discharging, threatening or otherwise discriminating against a public employee for communicating with an elected official. This would apply to the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location and privileges of employment.

The state’s Whistleblowers’ Protection Act protects individuals who are reporting, or those about to report, a suspected violation of a law, rule or regulation.

“I believe this is a matter of free speech and good government,” Zorn said. “While whistleblowers are protected, those protections are limited to those reporting wrongdoing. Public employees who work with elected officials to try to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state or local government deserve the same protection from retaliation.

“Frankly, I think it’s sad that this type of free speech protection is even necessary.”

SB 1086 has been referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee for consideration.