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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Workplace rights, rapture edition

Posted by: Hammer / 12:49 PM

About three weeks ago, I had a post about workplace rights. At bottom, an employer can fire an at will employee for any reason, including who an employee talks to outside of work. No real answers in the post or discussion that followed, but it makes a nice prologue to this:

A computer technician in California has filed a lawsuit against his employer after being reprimanded for expressing his support for traditional marriage at work.

Attorney and PJI president Brad Dacus says the First Amendment prohibits employers from discriminating against a worker based on his or her personal, political, or religious viewpoints. "We commend this employee for taking a stand for traditional marriage," he says, "and we are committed to standing with him in federal court."

The First Amendment has nothing to do with private employers. The First Amendment goes like this: "Congress shall make no law...". If it read, "Private employers shall make no rule...", the PJI would have a case.

Should an employee have the right to express a political opinion at the workplace? It gets sticky quickly, but I think employees should have the right to express political opinions up to the point where the opinions create a hostile environment for fellow employees. A bumper sticker that read "Save traditional marriage" would be okay. A bumper sticker that read "God hates fags" would not be okay.

Of course, the rights I think workers should have are far different from the rights workers actually do have: which are, in fact, practically zero. There are some good policy reasons for such rules and some bad policy reasons for such rules. One good reason is that we don't want to litigate every bumper sticker to determine whether it's offensive enough to disallow.

We've got an entire population on the right that spends half their time criticizing judicial activism and half their time begging the courts to create special rights just for them.


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