Sanitation Men v. Commissioner of Sanitation - 392 U.S. 280 (1968)
U.S. Supreme Court
Sanitation Men v. Commissioner of Sanitation, 392 U.S. 280 (1968)
Sanitation Men Assn., Inc. v. Commissioner of
Sanitation of the City of New York
Argued May 1, 1968
Decided June 10, 1968
392 U.S. 280
In connection with an investigation of improper activities by New York City sanitation employees, the individual petitioners, fifteen sanitation employees, were summoned before the Commissioner of Investigation and advised that, if they refused to testify with respect to their official conduct on the ground of self-incrimination, their employment would terminate in accordance with § 1123 of the City Charter. Twelve asserted the privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify, after being told that their answers could be used against them in subsequent proceedings. They were dismissed on the basis of that refusal. Three employees who answered the questions and denied the charges made against them were suspended, and then called before a grand jury and asked to sign waivers of immunity. Upon their refusal to do so, they were dismissed on the ground that they violated § 1123 by refusing to sign the waivers. The Federal District Court dismissed petitioners' action for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief based on the alleged wrongful discharge in violation of their constitutional rights, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: Petitioners, as public employees, are entitled, like all other persons, to the benefit of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, and they may not be faced with proceedings which, as here, presented them with a choice between surrendering their constitutional rights or their jobs. Gardner v. Broderick, ante, p. 392 U. S. 273. Public employees are subject to dismissal if they refuse to account for the performance of their public trust after proper proceedings which do not involve an attempt to coerce them to relinquish their constitutional rights. Pp. 392 U. S. 283-285.
383 F.2d 364, reversed.