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13 N.J.A.R. 474

Middlesex County Board of Social Services; Bovino, Ray v
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Citation: 13 N.J.A.R. 474
Decision Date: 1986
Synopsis: Appellant, a welfare worker, was suspended for 20 days on charges of insubordination when he did not comply with his super- visor's direction not to counsel a client against having an abortion. Appellant claimed the disciplinary action violated his First Amend- ment rights. The matter was transmitted to the Office of Adminis- trative Law for a hearing. The administrative law judge assigned to the case affirmed the suspension as it applied to appellant's activity in the workplace in violation of his supervisor's orders. Noting that the United States Supreme Court in the Pickering and Connick decisions upheld the right of public employees to comment on public issues, the judge said nonetheless that appellant's speech in this case was not protected because it related to the client's personal decision about abortion rather than abortion as a public issue. In addition, appellant's actions disrupted the operation of the welfare agency and affected the State's interest in promoting the efficiency of its services. The judge concluded that appellant's First Amendment rights were not violated by the suspension. The sole basis for the suspension was appellant's in- subordination and breach of discipline resulting from this violation of his supervisor's direct order. Upon review, this initial decision was adopted by the Merit System Board. The Appellate Division affirmed in an unreported dcision. (A2634-86-T8, Dec. 24, 1987) Richard F. Collier, Jr., Esq., for appellant (Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus, attorneys) State of New Jersey 475 Bernard H. Shihar, Esq., for respondent (Convery, Convery & Shihar, attorneys) Richard J. Traynor, Esq., for intervenor, Americans United for Life (Traynor & Hogan, attorneys) Steven F. McDowell, Esq., member of the Wisconsin bar, admitted pro hac vice, for intervenor, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights