The defendant was a police officer. He was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury that was investigating alleged bribery and corruption of police officers. He was advised that the grand jury proposed to examine him concerning the performance of his official duties. The defendant was advised of his privilege against self-incrimination, but was asked to sign a “waiver of immunity” so that the grand jury could continue to look into his potential wrongdoing. He was told that he would be fired if he did not sign. Following his refusal, he was given an administrative hearing and was discharged solely for this refusal.
Whether a government employee who refuses to waive the privilege against selfincrimination may be dismissed because of that refusal?
No. The threat of the loss of financial position amounts to coercion.
The defendant’s testimony was demanded before the grand jury in part so that it could be used to prosecute him, and not just for the purpose of securing an accounting of his official duties. The mandate of the self-incrimination clause prohibits the attempt to coerce a waiver of immunity from the defendant. Threatened loss of employment amounts to coercion. However, if a government employee refuses to answer questions relating to performance of his official duties after being granted immunity (his statements could not be used in a criminal case), the privilege against self-incrimination does not prevent his dismissal.
392 U.S. 273, 88 S. Ct. 1913 (1968)