Ronald Godwin worked for a youth correctional facility operated by the Oregon Youth Authority. He was fired because he associated with members of a motorcycle club and was seen around town wearing the club's “colors” and paraphernalia. This club is classified by the FBI as an “outlaw motorcycle gang.” The 9th Circuit split 2-1 as to whether firing Godwin violated his 1st amendment rights. Godwin v. Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility(9th Cir 08/10/2016).
The majority ruled in Godwin's favor. They found that his expression/association "relates to a matter of public concern." Then they did the balancing required by Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563 (1968), and found that
Nothing in the record on summary judgment indicates that Godwin’s expression impeded the performance of his job duties, adversely affected discipline or personnel relationships, or interfered with the work of the OYA. Nor does the record indicate that his expression would be reasonably likely to disrupt the workings of the OYA in the future.
The dissent's argument was simple: You don't need to show actual disruption.
[T]he government employer has a strong safety interest in maintaining public respect for its law enforcement agencies and officials, and that this interest is necessarily undermined when a law enforcement employee engages in conduct or speech antithetical to his employer’s legitimate law enforcement mission.
Please don't ask me why this case was marked "Not For Publication." It seems like an important point of disagreement.
[Another discussion of this case: Two Recent Federal Court Decisions Explore the Limits of the At-Will Employment Doctrine.]