Should the right to free speech be completely protected in the workplace?
When you hear of the Constitution and the Amendments within it, one of the first things you might think of are the freedom of religion or the freedom of speech. These are both heavily discussed topics in the political eye and organized in the 1st Amendment along with the freedom of the press, and the right to petition the government. Although these are rights that are guaranteed to every U.S. citizen, there are situations in which we have to ask ourselves…am I protected by the first Amendment? A big debate that has gone on for a while is in regards to the issue of free speech in a public workplace.
Looking into the actual words of the constitution, it states “Congress shall make no law restricting freedom of speech or of the press or of religion” The key word being Congress. The kick is that while under an employer, who isn’t the government, you are not really protected under the first Amendment. Therefore, if the company you work for does not like something you say at work or outside of work that isn’t within your job duties, they are legally within their rights to take action whether that be firing you, a demotion, etc. There are definitely cases in which public workers were favored in court because of odd circumstances even when they were technically violating their employers “rules of speech” like this one. What isn’t legally within their rights is to use the fact that they can fire you for that as a loophole for discrimination of any type based on sexual orientation, religion, gender, ethnicity, etc. Employees of public workplaces aren’t entirely without hope though because under the NLRA, employees are given the right to discuss wage hours, working conditions and forming a union; so, even if your employer doesn’t like that they can’t legally fire you for it if you are a member of this board.
The main point is know your rights and read your employee handbook carefully for HR Info regarding free speech.
“Freedom Of Speech In The Workplace: The First Amendment Revisited – Findlaw”. Findlaw, 2019, https://corporate.findlaw.com/law-library/freedom-of-speech-in-the-workplace-the-first-amendment-revisited.html.
“The Supreme Court Finds No First Amendment Protection For Government Employee Speech Pursuant To Official Duties | Findlaw”. Findlaw, 2019, https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/the-supreme-court-finds-no-first-amendment-protection-for-government-employee-speech-pursuant-to-official-duties.html.
2019, https://www.marketplace.org/2017/08/08/business/speaking-out-workplace (chose). Accessed 1 Mar 2019.
Tags: First Amendment, Free speech, Employee rights