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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No right to display Confederate flags at work
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.
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.
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