The New Orleans government has agreed to change its social media policy for employees, after resolving a demand for free speech filed by two public library workers against the City Council, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and his top Deputy Administrative Director Gilbert Montaño.
Andrew Okun and Erin Wilson argued in their 2021 lawsuit that Policy 83 (R), issued by Montaño a year earlier, was an unconstitutional effort to control what employees said in their free time, on the channels of public social networks like Tik Tok and even private messaging services like Slack.
Last week, the City Council revised the policy, removing references to what employees can say to private messaging apps in their time. The review also eliminates vague guidelines, such as “avoid the offensive” or “do not participate in or respond to negative or disparaging posts about city departments, employees, or policies.”
Okun, who still works for the administration, said he feels vindicated.
“Generally speaking, when you have a city administration doing everything possible to silence its own workers, that’s a bad sign,” he said. “And I think our case was pointed out. That’s why we fought, and that’s why we won.”
Wilson, who prefers to be referred to as plural pronouns, was especially concerned about previous politics because they are transgender, regularly published in Tik Tok, and once appeared with their faces hidden in a WWL-TV report. against Cantrell’s initial plan to keep public libraries open to visitors in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Wilson has left the library system to teach at a local high school, but was thrilled with the policy change, even though it no longer applies to them.
“For a long time, I felt it was impossible to make a significant change,” Wilson said. “It simply came to our notice then. And it feels empowering. It doesn’t matter if he is a teacher now. “
The Cantrell administration said on Thursday that it changed the policy to “provide guidance that addresses the concern of inappropriate disclosure of non-public information, ensures that employees are not harassed at work, and protects the privacy rights of employees.” employees and citizens of the city, while respecting the rights of our employees to freedom of expression.
Katie Schwartzmann, a professor at Tulane Law School and a former legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, represented Okun and Wilson in their lawsuit. He said he had never seen a policy “that went so far as to regulate the private activity of all workers in the city.”
Both opposed the new policy, but had to sign it to keep their jobs