The evidence in this case shows that a newspaper reporter specifically sought out Hughes as a source regarding allegations of sexual harassment against the executive director of Region VII, an area agency on aging that is responsible for distributing a substantial amount of funds entrusted to the agency by the State of Michigan and the federal government. Further, the reporter testified in his deposition that, while Hughes was still an employee of Region VII, the reporter confirmed to King, the executive director, that Hughes was serving as a source for the reporter’s critical articles regarding Region VII. In light of this evidence and the case law, we conclude that Hughes, in speaking to a reporter about allegations of sexual harassment against a public official, engaged in a constitutionally protected activity.The Sixth Circuit went on to find that Hughes' statements were not made in connection with her official duties and were thus eligible for protection under the public concern exception.
In May 2006, the US Supreme Court held that First Amendment protections do not extend to government employees for comments made while performing their official duties, even when the employee is acting to expose alleged government wrongdoing. In that case, an employee in the Los Angeles District Attorney's office argued that the content of a memorandum, in which he alleged that a sheriff had lied in a search warrant affidavit, should be protected because the issue was a matter of public concern, but the court disagreed.