Articles Tagged with workplace free speech

Employees at giant tech companies are figuring out ways to exercise free speech and protest against employment attorneysassignments they find ethically questionable, in spite of at-will laws that could get them fired for such acts of rebellion, according to CNBC. Employees at big names such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are staging protests and signing petitions largely in response to government contracts requesting work they find objectionable. Some examples include facial recognition software being used by police, improved military drone technology, and technology used in immigration and customs enforcement.

Nondisclosure agreements and general fear of losing their jobs have kept workers quiet about moral gray areas when it comes to tech work in the past. The First Amendment protects free speech, preventing the government from impeding on rights of U.S. citizens. Those rights, however, do not protect people from their places of business taking action against them. Whistleblower laws offer some safeguards, but only if an employee is reporting illegal activity. They do not protect employees who are taking a stance against legal projects to which they have an ethical objection. Public dissent against the company you work for is not protected and could easily get a person fired. Continue reading

Many companies have employment policies in place to help separate people’s personal lives from the workplace. Limiting personal calls, restricting social media use onemployment attorneys company computers, forbidding offensive materials from being displayed in work spaces and not allowing company resources to be used for personal gain or to spread personal messages — all of these are common practices. It is permissible and necessary for offices to limit such activities to keep workers focused, reduce wasteful spending, and prevent a hostile work environment.

However, problems can arise when managers selectively choose who can and cannot engage in such activities, with only certain people being punished. At best, a company can cause resentment among employees by singling out individuals for actions that are also being committed by others. At worst, they could find themselves in court for violating the First Amendment.

This is in line with the perspective of the Washington Supreme Court, where justices recently filed an opinion in the case against the fire department in eastern Washington. The court determined that a former fire captain, who was terminated after sending religious messages using a company forum, was denied his First Amendment rights to free speech and can sue for damages. Continue reading

The recent case of James Damore has raised serious issues about politics and free speech in the workplace. Damore was a Google engineer who circulated a highly controversial “anti-diversity manifesto” among his co-workers. Among other things, the manifesto claimed that the gender gap in the technology field was due to biological gender differences which made women less suited for the work. When the manifesto became public and went viral online, Google fired Damore for violating its Code of Conduct. CNBC reports that Damore compared being a conservative at Google to being gay in the 1950s. He claims he was fired for “wrong think,” and that anyone with conservative viewpoints is marginalized at Google. Google CEO Sundar Pinchai, in advising Google employees of Damore’s dismissal, issued a statement saying that,“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct.”Los Angeles employment attorneys

Politics are a particularly heated issue in current American culture. There is perhaps no point in history at which Americans have been more deeply and fundamentally divided over every possible ideological viewpoint. Foreign affairs, public policy, national security, religion, workplace equality, immigration, gender equality, and many other issues have caused physical violence to erupt between previously peaceful factions of society. How can employers maintain the peace of a healthy working environment while still respecting employee’s rights to their personal opinions?

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