A scientist fired for speaking out about faulty construction of the levees in New Orleans should have been protected under the first amendment, according to federal judge James J. Brady.
Ivor van Heerden filed a lawsuit against his employer, Louisiana State University, last year for firing him after he told the press that the levees were not properly constructed. He had worked at the university for 15 years on a contract basis as the deputy director of their hurricane center. The university said that it had the right to fire the scientist because his comments were work-related, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Van Heerden charged that the University sought to distance itself from his comments because of fear of losing federal funding from the Army Corps of Engineers, the organization which built the levees.
The judge ruled that "although it is a close question, van Heerden was not acting within his official job duties," but rather was speaking as a citizen, reported the Associated Press. The court's decision supports van Heerden's lawsuit of wrongful termination, which is ongoing.