Among the many rights guaranteed to American citizens, few are as highly valued as the rights to free speech, free assembly, and free press established by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Austin employment attorneys Dominic Audino and Andrew Traub are committed to protecting your First Amendment rights in the workplace.
The First Amendment
The First Amendment states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In practical terms, this means that you have the right to participate or refuse to participate in religious ceremonies, express your opinion, peacefully protest and work for social change.
How the First Amendment Relates to Employment Law
One important thing to understand about this amendment is that it only places restrictions on the government’s actions. (The Fourteenth Amendment expands this rule from Congress to state and local governments.) Therefore, private companies and entities are not bound by these rules. If you work for a private company in an at-will state, you may legally be penalized for expressing a taboo opinion (except in certain circumstances such as whistle-blowing.)
However, if you work in the public sector, then the First Amendment does indeed apply to your job, although in a very limited way. It is illegal for a government employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her First Amendment right only if the employee is speaking out in the interest of public concern.
For example, a government employer cannot penalize workers for bringing a scandal to light if doing so was for the greater good of the community. However, workers can be penalized for expressing opinions that reflect badly on the agency where they are employed.
If your First Amendment rights have been challenged or infringed upon, contact us today.