Political Expression in the workplace


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Guest: I work at a public school, I’m a support staff member. I got a question about what the law says. There are guidelines for conduct as an employee, but with the political, presidential election coming up, people sometimes like to express their opinion about who they like. So, and I can refer to agencies I’m familiar with to answer these questions, but can you give me your opinion on what is okay in a school as long as it doesn’t distract the educational process? as far as if I were to wear a t shirt that says I like candidate a, you know, not saying vote this, but maybe just the picture of a candidate, where could I go to get some information that says, hey, they can’t fire me because their policy says this, but the loss of I have freedom of speech.

Brian: Okay. So I’ve got a question. Um, uh, are you subject to a contract? Are you employed by contract or are you employment at will

Guest: I am employment at will, but I’m third party. I am not employed by the school. They hire an agency that hires me. So it’s a third party employer.

Brian: Okay, well that makes it even more treacherous for you to express your opinions. I’m in Michigan, we have what’s called employment at will, which means you can get fired at any time with notice, without notice, for good reason, without good reason. You can walk in with the wrong color tie and your boss could say, get the heck Outta here. Right? And you have, well, there’s nothing you can do as long as it’s not discriminatory based upon race or religion. What?

Guest: There’s federal law that says freedom of religions. One freedom of speech. Yeah,

Justin: sure.

Guest: That’s where my question comes in.

Brian: But if you’re, if you’re serving, if you’re serving at the pleasure of an individual, a employer, whether it’s a school or a private party, they can tell you, um, we don’t want any political talk in our, in our office. If they’re saying you can only talk about one candidate and you can’t talk about anybody else, then that might be a little problematic. But still, if your employment at will, they can fire you for no matter what. And the courts are pretty strict on that, I don’t think. I think, I think you should remember the old saying that a loose lips sink ships Jack,

Justin: just cause you don’t like it or you don’t know that that’s the state of the law. It’s employment. I will, that’s what that’s a Michigan has. That’s what it is. And you know, if you don’t like it, I guess you’ve got to move somewhere else. But it’s a, that’s what it is. Employment. All right, Brian.

Brian: That’s exactly right. And you know, if he’s got a contract, it’s probably some way around that, but still, you know, um, even at a kind of way, why would you be speaking that way at your employer? I mean, if you got some idea that, eh, that that may cause a problem to the extent that you’re doing research to find out what you can and cannot say, then I kinda think you better be quiet if you don’t, you know?

Justin: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s employment at will and that’s, that’s what it is.

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