The Constitution does not prohibit private employers from regulating political speech at work. Despite employee claims of a First Amendment right to share political views, the constitutional protections only limit actions of lawmakers and government institutions, not private firms.
In fact, there are many reasons it is advisable for employers to institute a policy that outlines what kinds of speech are allowed in the workplace. Of course, the practice of regulating speech on the job may be seen as a way to silence certain viewpoints, so employers must apply the rules consistently for all employees and be careful not to show preferential leniency for some viewpoints over others.
Why Is a Company Policy Regarding Political Speech a Good Idea?
Having an official company policy that discourages political speech of all kinds in the workplace can create an understanding across the board that heated discussions about controversial topics are inappropriate for work.
Intense political debates and disruptive speechmaking can impede productivity and hurt morale. Employers can make the point that the disadvantages of such are against the best interests of the business and are therefore unacceptable.
How Could Discouraging Political Speech at Work Backfire on Employers?
Employers must be careful to enforce the policy consistently and evenly among employees, ensuring that they are no more tolerant of certain positions than they are of others. This will send the message that the action of pushing political views in general is the problem, not that specific perspectives are objectionable.
In addition to putting all potentially problematic speech on the same footing, having a policy in place will give employers a solid position from which to deflect legal actions brought by employees who believe they have been illegally targeted as a result of their political beliefs.
What Are Charges from an Employee’s Claims of Being Unfairly Targeted for Political Beliefs?
Employers may be accused by employees of workplace discrimination or creating a hostile work environment. In some cases, these charges may have merit. If the company policy that bans political speech is enforced unevenly, it can create an environment in which the employee with the beliefs that are unpopular with management feels threatened or targeted by the supposed universal policy.
This is legally problematic when the speech in question pertains to issues related to certain employee classifications that are protected by anti-discrimination laws. For example, if a female employee begins to talk with co-workers about equal-pay issues, the employer must tread carefully in dealing with the issue.
On the one hand, the employee should be required to obey the policy that bans political speech, but, on the other hand, stifling the legitimate concerns of this particular employee on this particular topic could be seen as discrimination against the employee because of her sex. There are also protections against company interference in cases in which workers are discussing wages, improving working conditions, or attempts to organize to bargain collectively.
What Other Ways Can Hostile Workplace Claims Stem from Free Speech Issues?
Employees who believe that their beliefs are held against them may make the claim that the intolerance of their employers creates a hostile workplace. Many employees who feel this way may make the case that they have to check their identity at the office door.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, Represent Workers in Lawsuits against Their Employers for Creating a Hostile Workplace
If you have been disciplined or let go after expressing your political views at work, you may have a case for workplace discrimination or wrongful termination. The South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, can help you understand your rights as an employee and help you seek fair damages after being subjected to discrimination or a hostile workplace environment. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or contact us online for a free consultation. With office locations in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from Cherry Hill, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.