Government employees speak out

By Renata T

Changes have been coming quickly since President Trump’s inauguration, many of them setting limitations, such as who is “eligible” to live in and enter “the land of opportunity”.  These changes have resulted in a great deal of pushback from the public and even some in Washington,  so it is no surprise that there have been various reports about the Trump administration restricting communications between government agencies and the public. The question now becomes, what exactly can these government employees say and to whom?

There is a variety of answers and each of them applies to certain situations. One thing that remains constant is the fact that the administration does control what stance these federal agencies take and report out to the public, many of them being controversial topics. Another area that the Trump administration can control is not only the stance taken on topics, but what topics can be revealed and communicated to the Congress and to the people.

These communications are not just official press releases but websites and social media as well. How far each limitation goes is specific to each federal agency.  For example, Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post reported that Trump has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to freeze all grants and contracts and that all employees were prohibited to speak out about it. And for some agencies, Trump has completely eradicated them from the White House website, including the Climate Change page, the Affordable Care Acts and Healthcare, and LGBT rights.

But besides all these limitations and changes, one thing President Trump can’t change (hopefully) is the First Amendment. This amendment still allows these public employees to speak and voice their opinions, as long as they do so as individuals and not in a way that insinuates that their federal agency believes the same. The Supreme Court has been historically supportive of these First Amendment rights, with the only exception is if the personal opinion disrupts the workplace. But the problem that will become soon very prevalent in many court cases, is what is considered “disrupting the workplace?” Surely, we will soon find out what Trump’s definition of the term is.
Another concern to be faced is the President’s belief that the First Amendment provides “too much protection.” In an interview with WFOR, CBS’ Miami affiliate, Trump said that the press “is allowed to say whatever it wants,” and that he wishes our system would give someone who sues a media company a “good chance of winning.” Now all that we have left to see is exactly how Trump plans on dealing with and designating the limitations to this amendment.