Shahar v. Bowers
114 F.3d 1097 (11th Cir. 1997)

Facts:
Shahar was a law clerk with the Georgia Department of Law and offered the position of Staff Attorney when she graduated. Upon learning of Shahar’s engagement to another woman, the Attorney General revoked her offer – “As chief legal officer of this state, inaction on my part would constitute tacit approval of this purported marriage and jeopardize the proper functioning of this office.”

  • Seeing that this was government employment, Shahar argued that her rights of intimate and expressive association, freedom of religion, equal protection, and substantive due process were violated.

History:
The District Court granted the Attorney General’s motion for summary judgment.

Issue:
Whether Shahar’s interests outweigh the disruption and other harm the Attorney General believed her employment could cause – i.e., “Pickering balancing.”

Holding:
No. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • In Pickering, the Supreme Court held that the determination of whether a public employer has properly discharged an employee for engaging in speech requires “a balance between the interests of the employee in commenting on matters of public concern and the interest of the State in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.”
  • Here, the court held that the Attorney General’s interest as an employer in promoting efficiency of important public service of the Georgia Department of Law outweighed the attorney’s personal associational interests.

Side Note: Courts generally hold that discrimination based on sexual orientation does not violate Title VII.

  • About half of the states, however, have enacted laws prohibiting discrimination in private employment on the basis of sexual orientation.