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Dare Not Ye Speak at Work

At his blog Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer, Michael Fox points to two interesting recent posts that underscore this simple proposition: When at work, you have no right of free speech. In the most recent of the two, Limits of Free Speech in the Workplace, Chris McKinney writes that employees are generally surprised to learn this. He urges companies to publish policies governing employees' blogging and use of social networking sites. Earlier, in his post Freedom of Speech in the Workplace: Think Again, Michael Moore makes similar points, noting that the Bill of Rights does not block private employers from "trampling constitutionally guaranteed freedoms."

Inspired by these posts on workplace speech, Fox offers a "mini-review" of a book by Vanderbilt Professor Bruce Barry, Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace. Even though Barry is president of the ACLU of Tennessee, Fox found his book to be balanced.

In addition to providing good insight into the current state of the law, he makes the argument that it would be good for society, including employers, if they could get over their basically reflexive anti-free speech reactions, while acknowledging there is little current legal basis to require them to do so, and conceding that freedom increases conflict which runs against [an] employer's 'enduring goals of employee compliance, conformity, complacency and efficiency.'

To that last note, Fox -- employers' lawyer that he is -- is compelled to add: "Perhaps a little too cynical view of modern employers."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 30, 2007 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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