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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You say gorilla, I say guerilla

April 16, 2017 1 COMMENTS

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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Election dynamics in the workplace: Free speech? ‘You’re fired’

December 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Courtney Bru

None of us were immune from this year’s presidential election dynamics. Disrespect and name-calling have seemed more prevalent than policy discussions. The election was highly polarizing, potentially pitting employee against employee.  PolticalDebate

In the midst of it all, employees were often misinformed about their “free speech rights” in the workplace. A recent instance from Georgia should serve as an example.

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Don’t let Confederate flags lead to interoffice civil war

August 14, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Connor Beatty

While enjoying a scenic drive along the Maine coast recently, I was startled to come across a giant Confederate flag prominently displayed in a house’s front yard. Less than a week later, a client contacted our firm to ask for advice in responding to an employee’s claim that a vehicle with a Confederate flag bumper sticker in the parking lot made her uncomfortable. While the timing of the occurrences may have been a coincidence, the events are a reminder that the Southern symbol can appear at any workplace, including workplaces in one of the northernmost states in the country. For many, the Confederate flag is an offensive image, and addressing the symbol at work can be tricky. Employers in other states have been sued for ordering employees to remove Confederate flags, while other employers have been taken to court for failing to order workers to remove the flags.  Confederate flag flying

No right to display Confederate flags at work

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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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Professor’s Biased Rants Not Unlawful Harassment

August 15, 2010 2 COMMENTS

Latino employees at an Arizona community college were understandably offended when a professor broadly distributed e-mail messages exalting the “superiority of Western Civilization” and deriding the contributions of nonwhite immigrants and Native Americans. But did the professor’s messages create a racially hostile work environment? The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) recently answered that question in the negative. The professor had constitutional free-speech rights with which the college couldn’t interfere.

Professor’s Views Offend

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