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Total Articles: 9

Dear Littler: Can A Boss Fire Someone for Off-Duty Political Activities?

Dear Littler: I saw one of my employees on the local news the other night participating in a political rally over the weekend. We try to maintain a tension-free workplace. Can I discipline him for this conduct? Can I at least institute a policy prohibiting this kind of behavior going forward?

Election 2016: Political Speech and Activity in the Workplace

On November 8, voters across the country will head to the polls to determine the next president. Some states have already begun the early voting process. Voters will also decide who fills various U.S. congressional seats, who will represent them at the state and local levels, and which ballot initiatives will be approved. As voters contemplate their important choices, the heated rhetoric on the campaign trail will undoubtedly make its way into the workplace. For instance, in June 2016, 26% of responding human resources professionals reported an increase in the amount of employee political concern and expression this election season.1

Supreme Court Rules Against Employer in Political Speech Case

The Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer demoted because his employer mistakenly believed he was campaigning for the mayor's political opponent may file suit for monetary damages. In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, the Court ruled 6-2 that the employer's action violated the officer's First Amendment rights.

Supreme Court: Government Employer’s Incorrect Belief About Employee’s Activity Matters in First Amendment Analysis

A government employer can violate an employee’s constitutional rights by acting based on incorrect information that, if true, would violate the U.S. Constitution, even though the employee was not actually exercising his or her constitutional rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has held in a 6-2 decision. Heffernan v. City of Paterson, No. 14-1280 (Apr. 26, 2016).

Perceived Political Expression Protected By First Amendment, Supreme Court Says

In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court today held that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects both actual and perceived political speech and expression by public employees. The unsurprising decision squares with decisions from several lower appellate circuit courts, and should serve as a warning sign for public sector employers. Heffernan v. City of Paterson.

Supreme Court Will Hear Public Employee Free Speech Case

As the Supreme Court began its new term, it added an intriguing employee political speech case to its schedule. In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, the Court is being asked to decide if the First Amendment bans a public employer from demoting a police officer based on his superior's perception that the officer supported another political candidate.

Supreme Court Rules Public Employee’s Sworn Testimony Is Protected

Declaring that “public employees do not renounce their citizenship when they accept employment,” the Supreme Court of the United States held today that the First Amendment protects a public employee’s truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena. According to Justice Sotomayor, who delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court in Lane v. Franks, the issue turned on whether the employee’s speech was made pursuant to his ordinary job duties or whether the “employee spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern.” The Court found that the testimony of the employee in this case was made as a citizen on a matter of public concern and that “public employers may not condition employment on the relinquishment of constitutional rights.” Lane v. Franks, No. 13-483, Supreme Court of the United States (June 19, 2014).

Political Speech At Work

With the election just a month away, everyone seems to have strong opinions about the candidates and issues. Inevitably, these opinions will come up during conversations on the jobsite and can be disruptive and interfere with productivity. They also can expose employers and employees to legal risks if they do not fully understand the laws that govern political speech at work.

Free Speech is Front and Center

This election year, it seems everyone has strong opinions about the candidates and issues. Inevitably, these opinions will come up during conversations in the workplace. These conversations may disrupt the workplace, but employers need to understand the legal risks of limiting such speech before they cross the line and violate employee rights. Here is a brief outline of some of the laws that regulate employer' attempts to curtail employee free speech.
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