George Gombossy, a former consumer affairs columnist for the Hartford Courant,
sued the newspaper and its owner, the Chicago-based Tribune Co., claiming
the companies violated his free speech rights by forcing him out of his job.
Gombossy wrote columns and blogs that were critical of Courant advertisers,
to which the newspaper’s owners took issue, saying the newspaper
couldn’t afford to lose the business. In April, Gombossy told his
editors he plann3ed to write a column about a state investigation into
Sleepy’s, a mattress company that advertises with the Courant. As
a result, Gombossy’s position was eliminated.
Gombossy’s attorney said this was the first time a journalist has
used a state law that protects free speech in the workplace to protest
a firing on grounds he was trying to protect consumers and keep his newspaper
A spokesperson for the Courant says Gombossy had no contract for continued
employment and the companies had the right to make a business decision
to eliminate his position, a decision it stands by and will defend.
Gombossy has since started his own consumer affairs website
www.ctwatchdog.com. He worked for the Courant for more than 40 years and was chosen to write
the consumer affairs column 2007. He says he received excellent performance
reviews and his column was widely promoted by the newspaper.
His suit seeks past and future economic losses, including fringe and retirement
benefits, punitive damages and attorneys fees.
[Source: The Associated Press, September 29, 2009]