A nurse in the obstetrics unit at a public hospital was fired after she spoke with a nurse who was being recruited to join the unit. According to some witnesses, the nurse spoke inappropriately and negatively about the unit and her supervisor. According to the nurse and other witnesses, she spoke primarily about whether some policies being followed on the unit were diminishing the quality of nursing care. The nurse's supervisors learned of the discussion and fired the nurse after a brief investigation. The nurse sued, complaining that her termination violated the rule set forth by the Court inConnick v. Myers — that a public employee's speech is protected if it involves a matter of public concern and is not disruptive of the employment setting. The district court held that the nurse's speech was not of public concern and dismissed her case. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the speech (if it was as described by the terminated nurse) was of public concern. The court of appeals noted that inquiry must turn on what the speech actually was, and not on what the hospital concluded had been said. In Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a public employee's speech is protected if it involves a matter of public concern and is not disruptive of the employment setting. The Court, however, had never before been asked to decide a case in which the public employer and employee disagreed about what had been said.

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