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Does freedom of speech apply to the workplace?

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2024 | Firm News |

Many Americans treasure their right to free speech, but the right to communicate your beliefs and ideas becomes more complicated when they enter the workplace. What should you know about freedom of speech and your career?

What is free speech?

The first amendment of the constitution prevents the government from interfering with your ability to communicate your ideas and opinions. This includes writing, speaking, communicating through body language and even choosing not to speak.

Is free speech protected in your workplace?

Many of the actions a worker at a private company may take are protected by law. Your private employer cannot punish you from reporting harassment, interrupting harassment or mistreatment, reporting illegal activity and making other statements that the government considers protected activity.

However, as the American Bar Association notes, the question of whether workers’ speech is protected depends on a variety of different factors. These include the state laws that govern their workplace, municipal laws, whether their workplace is part of a government office and whether they are part of a union.

Because of this complicated legal landscape, many workers have experienced retaliation and even lost their jobs for the statements they made. In an at-will employment state – where the employer or employee may end their relationship for almost any reason – this means that the things you say could put you at risk. For example, a Virginia employee fired for making social media posts about politics that their employer deemed obscene found their case dismissed because of the state’s at-will employment law.

Were your rights violated?

Free speech in the workplace can be a complex issue. If your private employer punished you for expressing your views, you should take steps to understand the laws that govern your workplace and your rights in this situation. Discussing your experience with an employment law attorney can offer insights into the law and help you explore your options for holding your employer responsible.

While free speech in the workplace is a complicated issue, the right information and guidance can help you understand and protect your right to express yourself.