Office politics: preventing disruptive discourse

October 15, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by David L. Johnson

Recently, a Pennsylvania YMCA stopped showing cable news shows on the TVs in its gym because they were prompting political squabbles among its members. When filtered into the diverse workplace, passionate opposing political viewpoints can harm productivity and morale and even create liability issues for employers. Sometimes political discussions can morph into something that creates a hostile work environment for a member of a protected class.  Politcs at Work

Keep in mind that the First Amendment right to “free speech” under the U.S. Constitution doesn’t prevent private-sector employers from restricting employees’ speech. Let’s take a look at what private-sector employers can and should do to regulate political communications.

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Comments and tweet using variation of ‘n’ word are protected speech

March 19, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Michelle Lee Flores

Actor and writer Marlon Wayans’ use of the term “nigga,” his comments referring to an actor’s “afro” and comparing him to a black character on Family Guy, and his tweet, including a side-by-side photo comparison of the actor and the Family Guy character, were all protected speech, according to a trial court and the California Court of Appeal.  First Amendment

The court of appeal agreed with Wayans that his actions were part of the creative process of improvisation, character development, and writing that resulted in the birth of a character for a film he was starring in, and the tweet was in furtherance of and promotion of the film.

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Thin line between political and hate speech: What’s acceptable at work

April 17, 2016 1 COMMENTS

by Holly K. Jones, J.D.

Picture it—it’s a Friday afternoon at the end of a very long week, and just as you are about to sneak out early for the weekend, one of your employees walks into your office wearing a camouflage trucker hat emblazoned with the words “Make America Great Again.” Oh perfect, you think to yourself, another Trump supporter. And before you can stop yourself, your (irrational and unproductive) irritation gets the best of you, and you find yourself remarking sarcastically, “Nice hat. Do you hate women, too?” The employee gives you a shocked look but leaves your office after getting an answer to an unrelated question, and as he walks away, you proudly tag Hillary Clinton in a tweet about how you stood up for women’s equality.  Dont Fight

A week later, you have to give the same employee a written warning for being late for the third time in the past two weeks, but when you ask him to sign the warning, he angrily accuses you of discriminating against him because he is a Republican and a Caucasian man. And he then files a complaint against you with HR.

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Not funny: mocking coworker’s spouse’s religion

March 20, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Zachary D. Morahan

The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, 2nd Department, recently issued an important decision in which it held that an employer faced liability under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) for allowing employees to mock the religious beliefs of a coworker’s spouse. This case has important ramifications for both public and private-sector employers.  Not Amused

Background

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