From sports and entertainment to politics and social justice—when worlds collide in your workplace

September 19, 2016 0 COMMENTS

It’s everywhere. Whether you like it or not, you can’t escape it. While the topics of politics and social justice are undoubtedly important discussions to have in our country, the reality is that they now seem ever present. Consider, for example, two popular entertainment outlets many individuals usually go to in order to “escape” from their daily routines: sports and television.  protesting with different opinions

Within the sports realm, and with apologies to the other sports, there is no question that the return of the NFL season garnered the most anticipation the last couple weeks. Yet the biggest story wasn’t necessarily the play on the field. Instead, it was San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem as a demonstration of protest against racial inequality and oppression in this country. A number of other NFL players subsequently joined in the protest in their own way, as did athletes from other sports, most notably in the news was U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

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Cooling hot political buttons

May 27, 2016 0 COMMENTS

During every political campaign, I am reminded of the notion that if we speak about our co-workers or subordinates in the manner in which the American voter speaks about political candidates, we should expect some remediation by our superiors or human resources. For example, if we question the legitimacy of an employee’s birth certificate, criticize an employee’s middle name because it is the same as the first name of a known terrorist, or question whether we are ready for a female boss or whether an applicant for employment is “too old,” we might notice an increase in administrative charges or lawsuits.  The Words Coming Out of My Mouth

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump’s election rhetoric, both in the news and in social media, has us wondering what he will say next. In the work world, human resources professionals and employment lawyers alike spend countless hours developing appropriate harassment/discrimination policies and training their workforces to prevent harassment in the workplace on the basis of any protected characteristic.

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A horse with no claim

October 04, 2013 0 COMMENTS

Some colorful (ahem) corners of the Internet were abuzz this week after a report surfaced that an anonymous adult male fan of the cartoon show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was fired from his job after admitting his fandom to his coworkers. The firing of this “brony” (and let’s just assume for the sake of this post the story is true) prompted questions about the limits of employee workplace protections. Did this man’s termination violate his right to free expression?  Answered simply, no. This episode is a useful reminder of the limits of constitutional protections in the private-sector workplace and the viability of at-will employment.  

The First Amendment guarantees that our rights to freedom of speech and expression are shielded from state action. Private sector employers, however, are not state actors. A 2007 federal district court decision unambiguously held that “the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution don’t extend to private-sector employees.” Simple, right? Well, maybe not always. Employers should be aware that some states have their own laws or provisions in their state constitutions that transpose First Amendment-like protections into private workplaces.

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