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Employer Rights

March 15, 2020

By Thomas McCutcheon

Q: I have an employee who tries to talk politics to my customers, and I have had several of them ask me if I knew that this was going on. I think this person is making my customers uncomfortable. Can I do anything about this?

Janelle, Florence, AL

You sure can. I think you can warn your employee not to continue and if that doesn’t work, fire your employee if he or she is damaging your business.

This type of person typically believes they have a First Amendment Right to free speech. They do not have the right to free speech on your time if it impacts your business.

There is a common misconception that the First Amendment protects speech in any place. It does not. Therefore, a private employer may make rules about what is or is not appropriate for discussions at work.

For the most part, when employees are not at work, they are on their time. However, they still represent your company and should behave in a professional manner.

People shouldn’t forget that’s why they call it work. Someone else is paying for their time and that has consequences.

People cannot be fired for having a particular religious belief or national origin. People can be fired for engaging in activities while on the employer’s time on the employer’s property. Generally speaking, people can be fired for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all but there are certain protected classes that are protected by law.

The right of an employer to control workplace discussions that they deem inappropriate is protected by law, but this control must be exercised even handedly, and an employee should only be fired after a fair warning.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!

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