“My Posts Do Not Necessarily Represent Those with Whom I am Affiliated. Obvious, Right?” Dr. Tara Gustilo vs. Hennepin Healthcare System: Free Speech as a Public Employee


  • Ifeoma Osakwe


Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Tara Gustilo led her department at Hennepin Healthcare System (HHS) for five years. Like many Americans in 2020, she engaged in the civic dialogue on police brutality and racial discrimination that seized the Internet after George Floyd’s murder. In her case, however, posting on Facebook sparked a series of charged conversations and department- wide frustrations. For HHS leaders, Gustilo’s reputation as a stellar physician and leader conflicted with the organization’s interest in protecting a non-hostile working environment. The hospital leadership faced a dilemma: should HHS honor employee requests to remove Gustilo as Department Chair or protect the lead’s position considering her impressive achievements during her tenure? This case highlights the complexities of protecting workplace integrity without infringing on free speech rights.


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