Embry v. City of Calumet, Ill.

Government employees who serve in policymaking positions requiring political allegiance may be fired for their political affiliation. The plaintiff, who was Commissioner of Streets and Alleys for the defendant, was demoted from his position after several aldermen refused to ratify his appointment to a new department based on his failure to support their ally’s political campaign. According to the Elrod-Branti line of cases, the “government employer’s need for political allegiance . . . outweighs the employee’s freedom of expression” for government employees in policymaking positions. The Seventh Circuit held that Embry’s broad discretionary power to formulate city policies constituted policymaking, and that his demotion for failure to support certain aldermen in a previous election was proper.

Embry v. City of Calumet, 701 F.3d 231 (7th Cir. 2012); Bonds v. Milwaukee Cnty., 207 F.3d 969, 977 (7th Cir. 2000); Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 96 S. Ct. 2673, 49 L. Ed. 2d 547 (1976); Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 100 S. Ct. 1287, 63 L. Ed. 2d 574 (1980); see also Susan Lorde Martin, A Decade of Branti Decisions: A Government Official’s Guide to Patronage Dismissals, 39 AM. U. L. REV. 11 (1989).

(Development Authored by Jennifer Girard)