No Freedom of Speech in the Workplace | Employment Law
America was founded on the right to speak against the government, but does that mean that employees have free speech rights in the workplace?
Except in some limited circumstances… No.
If you are complaining about anything that is not illegal, you aren’t protected from retaliation by your employer. You can be fired for speech in the workplace, or even outside the workplace, if you don’t work for the government.
So, what’s protected when you work for a private employer?
Complaining about discrimination or the company’s illegal conduct is protected. Everything else? Probably not.
Companies must vigilantly protect their brand and workplace morale. So, what does this mean for their employees in these areas where clients can and do interact with employees outside normal business hours by our social media. Watch out! Because you can often be fired for what you say.
Did you write an email to the CEO complaining that your boss is a jerk? You are not protected. Did you have a loud argument with a coworker over politics? Sorry, that’s not protected either. Did you go on a rant on your personal social media pages? You got it, not protected either.
I had one manner, where a conference volunteer lost control of his Facebook thread, and others made highly controversial comments. The volunteer didn’t delete these posts, a conference attendee saw the post and cancelled her membership because she no longer felt safe to go into a conference where people believed “those things”.
Well, neither the volunteer nor the conference believed “those things”, but the conference still lost over $10,000.
So, what do you do?
- Realize you are the company’s brand ambassador.
- Your employer CAN monitor your social media feeds.
- Conduct yourself professionally and insist the posters also act professionally.
- Debate hot political issues in person and not on a forum where those comments may last forever and may discourage people from hiring you or working with your employer.
- And understand that nearly everything you say can be used against you in the workplace.