Freedom of Speech Ends When You Punch In at Work, NJ Lawyer Explains
Watch your mouth on the job.
That's the gist of a warning from a New Jersey attorney who cites a "common misconception" among the public that they have the right to free speech around the clock wherever they may be.
On social media and in the news each day, we see the American public exercising their First Amendment right. But those rights have a limit, particularly when it comes to where you work, according to Rosemary Gousman, regional managing partner with labor law firm Fisher Phillips in Murray Hill.
"If you work for the government, you have a right to free speech," Gousman told Townsquare Media. "If you work for a private company, the First Amendment doesn't apply to you in the workplace."
And a private employer has the right to make rules restricting what their employees can and cannot say.
"For example, an employer could say, 'I don't want you to discuss politics in the workplace because it causes disruption in the workplace,'" Gousman said.
And these restrictions can apply in the digital world as well; private employers do not have to tolerate a worker's unsavory comments, even if they're made online, Gousman added.
"People just assume they have a First Amendment right to speak whenever and wherever you want," she said.
Prayer in the workplace is a different issue because an employer — even a private employer — has an obligation to accommodate someone's religious beliefs.