The Illinois Governor issued an executive order instituting a hiring freeze, whereby state officials are prohibited from hiring any employee, filling any vacancy,
creating any new position, or taking any similar action without the Governor's "express permission." Petitioners and cross-respondents -- an applicant for
employment, employees who had been denied promotions or transfers, and former employees who had not been recalled after layoffs -- brought suit in the
District Court, alleging that, by means of the freeze, the Governor was operating a political patronage system; that they had suffered discrimination in state
employment because they had not been Republican Party supporters; and that this discrimination violates the First Amendment. The District Court dismissed the
complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. Noting that Elrod v. Burns,
427 U.S. 347, and Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, had found that the patronage practice of discharging public employees on the basis of their political affiliation
violates the First Amendment, the court held that other patronage practices violate the Amendment only when they are the "substantial equivalent of a dismissal,"
i.e., when they would lead reasonable persons to resign. The court concluded, based on Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Education, 476 U.S. 267 , that rejecting an
employment application did not impose a hardship comparable to the loss of a job. Thus, it dismissed the hiring claim, but remanded the others for further
proceedings. Held: The rule of Elrod and Branti extends to promotion, transfer, recall, and hiring decisions based on party affiliation and support, and petitioners
and cross-respondents have stated claims upon which relief may be granted. Pp. 68-79 . (a) Promotions, transfers, and recalls based on political affiliation or
support are an impermissible infringement on public employees' First Amendment rights. Even though petitioners and cross-respondents [p*63] have no legal
entitlement to the promotions, transfers, and recalls, the government may not rely on a basis that infringes their constitutionally protected interests to deny them
these valuable benefits. Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593 , 597 . Significant penalties are imposed on those employees who exercise their First Amendment
rights. Those who do not compromise their beliefs stand to lose the considerable increases in pay and job satisfaction attendant to promotions, the shorter
commuting hours and lower maintenance expenses incident to transfers to more convenient work locations, and even the jobs themselves in the case of recalls.
As in Elrod and Branti, these patronage practices are not narrowly tailored to serve vital government interests. A government's interest in securing effective
employees can be met by discharging, demoting, or transferring persons whose work is deficient, and its interest in securing employees who will loyally
implement its policies can be adequately served by choosing or dismissing high-level employees on the basis of their political views. Likewise, the "preservation
of the democratic process" is not furthered by these patronage decisions, since political parties are nurtured by other less intrusive and equally effective methods,
and since patronage decidedly impairs the elective process by discouraging public employees' free political expression. Pp. 71-75 . (b) The standard used by the
Court of Appeals to measure alleged patronage practices in government employment is unduly restrictive because it fails to recognize that there are deprivations
less harsh than dismissal that nevertheless press state employees and applicants to conform their beliefs and associations to some state-selected orthdoxy. Pp.
75-76 . (c) Patronage hiring places burdens on free speech and association similar to those imposed by patronage promotions, transfers, and recalls. Denial of a
state job is a serious privation, since such jobs provide financial, health, and other benefits; since there may be openings with the State when business in the
private sector is slow; and since there are occupations for which the government is the sole or major employer. Under this Court's sustained precedent,
conditioning hiring decisions on political belief and association plainly constitutes an unconstitutional condition unless the government has a vital interest in doing
so. See, e.g., Branti, supra, 445 U.S. at 515-516 . There is no such government interest here, for the same reasons that the government lacks justification for
patronage promotions, transfers, and recalls. It is inappropriate to rely on Wygant to distinguish hiring from dismissal in this context, since that case was
concerned with the least harsh means of remedying past wrongs, and did not question that some remedy was permissible when there was sufficient evidence of
past discrimination. Here, however, it is unnecessary to consider whether not being hired is less burdensome [p*64] than being discharged, because the
government is not pressed to do either on the basis of political affiliation. Pp. 76-79 . 868 F.2d 943 (CA7 1989), affirmed in part, reversed in part, and
remanded. Opinions BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined.
STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 79 . SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and KENNEDY, J., joined, and in
which O'CONNOR, J., joined as to Parts II and III, post, p. 92 .
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