The special vice of a prior restraint is that communication will be suppressed, either directly or by inducing excessive caution in the speaker, before an adequate determination that it is unprotected by the First Amendment.
Pittsburgh Press Co. (Pittsburgh Press) was alleged to have been violating The Human Relations Ordinance of the City of Pittsburgh (the Ordinance) which forbade newspapers to carry "help-wanted" advertisements in sex-designated columns except where the employer or advertiser is free to make hiring or employment referral decisions on the basis of sex. On October 9, 1969, the National Organization for Women, Inc. (NOW) filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (the Commission) contending that Pittsburgh Press allowed employers to place advertisements in the male or female columns, when the jobs advertised do not have bona fide occupational qualifications or exceptions. Finding probable cause to believe that Pittsburgh Press was violating the Ordinance, the Commission held a hearing, at which it received evidence and heard argument from the parties and from other interested organizations. Among the exhibits introduced at the hearing were clippings from the help-wanted advertisements carried in the January 4, 1970, edition of the Sunday Pittsburgh Press, arranged by column. In many cases, the advertisements consisted simply of the job title, the salary, and the employment agency carrying the listing, while others included somewhat more extensive job descriptions. Concluding that the Pittsburgh Press violated the city's Human Relations Ordinance, The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations ordered the newspaper to cease placing help-wanted advertisements in columns captioned "Jobs--Male Interest," "Jobs--Female Interest," and "Male-Female." The Commission also instructed the newspaper to utilize a classification system with no reference to sex. On appeal, Pittsburgh Press Co. contended that the ordinance contravened its constitutional rights to freedom of the press granted under the First Amendment.
Did The Human Relations Ordinance of the City of Pittsburgh which forbade newspapers to carry "help-wanted" advertisements in sex-designated columns contravene Pittsburgh Press Co.’s constitutional rights to freedom of the press granted under the First Amendment?
The Pittsburgh ordinance as construed to forbid newspapers to carry sex-designated advertising columns for nonexempt job opportunities does not violate petitioner's First Amendment rights. In the case at bar, the Court held that the advertisements in question did not implicate the newspaper's freedom of expression or its financial viability, and were thus, purely commercial advertising; as such, the advertisements were not protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, the Court held that the Commission’s order was clear and swept no more broadly than was necessary.