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10 Rights the First Amendment Absolutely Does Not Grant


7
The Right to Unrestricted Free Speech at Work
The First Amendment allows you to discuss religious and political matters at work but employers can forbid it if they find it disruptive to the workplace. iStock/Thinkstock
The First Amendment allows you to discuss religious and political matters at work but employers can forbid it if they find it disruptive to the workplace. iStock/Thinkstock

The First Amendment rejects any government restriction of free speech, but does that mean you are free to say whatever you want at the workplace without fear of getting fired? Clearly, some types of speech — like open threats or sexual harassment — are grounds for disciplinary action according to workplace policies. But what about other types of protected free speech, like professions of deeply held religious or political beliefs?

In both public and private workplaces, employees reserve the right to display religious or political signs or symbols at their desks and discuss their opinions with co-workers as long as those desktop displays and conversations do not create a hostile work environment [sources: First Amendment Center, Snyder].

Of course, one person's casual conversation is another person's harassment. Employers reserve the right to discipline or fire a worker who continues to proselytize after warnings that such behavior is disrupting productivity or making co-workers uncomfortable. That's as long as employers are sure they won't run afoul of laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and other characteristics[sources: First Amendment Center, Snyder].


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