The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that private individuals hired temporarily by local governments have the same protection against civil rights lawsuits as public employees.
Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday that it makes no sense to treat people differently because one person is a full-time government employee and another has been retained for a discrete task.
The court sided with attorney Steve Filarsky, who was hired by the city of Rialto, Calif., to investigate the possible misuse of sick leave. Filarsky and several full-time Rialto employees were sued by a firefighter who was under investigation.
Lower courts threw out claims against all the city employees, but the federal appeals court in San Francisco said Filarsky's case was different because he was not employed by Rialto.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.