Ever heard of the term Garrity Rights? Well, it has a lot to do with the question in our headline.
Garrity Rights protect public employees from being forced to testify during investigatory interviews conducted by their employers if that testimony might be self-incriminating. This protection is derived from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution which declares that the federal government cannot force a person to be a witness against him/herself – and the 14th Amendment which grants equal protection (making the 5th Amendment applicable to state, county and municipal governments as well – Malloy v. Hogan ).
Where does the term “Garrity Rights” come from?
In 1961, the then New Jersey attorney general was investigating claims that traffic tickets were being unlawfully altered in the townships of Bellmawr and Barrington. The investigation focused on Bellmawr police Chief Edward Garrity and five other employees. The Chief and his staff were questioned about the matter and told they did not have to answer investigators’ questions because their answers could be self incriminating. However, the Chief and his associates were also told they would be terminated if they did not answer the questions. To avoid termination, all six answered the questions posed and were later convicted with that information. The U.S. Supreme Court heard an appeal of the case in 1967 and ruled that the State of New Jersey had violated the rights of all six and overturned the convictions.
If you are a public sector employer in Connecticut – here are two basic facts you need to know about Garrity Rights:
- First, a public employee cannot be compelled, by the threat of serious discipline, to make statements that may be used in a subsequent criminal proceeding.
- Second, a public employee cannot be terminated for refusing to waive his/her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Therefore, if an employee is forced to give a statement as part of an administrative investigation the statement is “protected,” and cannot be used in a subsequent criminal prosecution.
If you have questions about Garrity Rights and public employees and want to avoid legal issues, talk to a well trained Connecticut labor and employment lawyer. The attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale each have over 20 years of experience in these employment matters working exclusively for employers, and would be pleased to assist you. Please contact us if we can help.
Photo credit: wka / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA