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Blog Posts Tagged "employment discrimination"

Free speech in the workplace: Can private-sector employees be fired for political opinions?

An increasingly divisive political climate has put the exercise of constitutional freedoms in the spotlight. While the First Amendment states, in relevant part, that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” the First Amendment’s restrictions do not apply to private-sector employers. In other words, an employee’s freedom of speech and expression can have limits and repercussions in the private-sector workplace.

The polarizing political discourse has been on display along NFL sidelines since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016. Hundreds of NFL players and other professional athletes have joined the protests, and others have followed in solidarity.

At the beginning of the NFL season, President Donald Trump urged league owners to fire players whom he said showed a “total disrespect for everything we stand for.” But is it legal for an employer to fire employees for expressing their political opinions?

South Carolina is an “employment at-will” state, which means that either an employer or an employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, if such termination is not in violation of state or federal law. Private sector employers always will have a certain degree of control over employees’ speech. For instance, it is appropriate for a company to prohibit employees from discussing trade secrets or revealing confidential information. Employers also can prohibit harassing speech or conduct in the workplace. 

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The Perils of Social Media for Hiring Managers

Hiring managers increasingly are checking out job applicants on social media, and it’s easy to see why: The Internet holds a trove of personal information on most of us, and it doesn’t take much time or skill to mine this data. 

But, you do so at your peril, I always tell employers. 

A lot of what you come across in Internet searches about a job applicant will make my job as an employment litigator harder if I’m defending you in a discrimination lawsuit. The problem is that there are certain things that you should never ask in a job interview, and yet you can’t help but stumble across these areas in a search of social media. 

Remember, every click of your keyboard is subject to discovery in litigation. Once you’ve seen something, you can’t turn back the page. 

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