Monday, February 28, 2011

Employment Rights | Freedom of Speech: What Do You Know?

Many people assume that the US Constitution applies to every American. Were you aware that the Constitution is mostly confined to matters that involve the government?

When a person says, “I have the right for freedom of speech.” The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but the right only applies if there is a state actor.

For example, a police officer works for the government, so the officer is a state actor. The Constitution frames what the officer can or cannot do. A policeman cannot punish a person for speaking freely, per the First Amendment. In contrast, your friend who has a job at Home Depot, a private company, does not violate the First Amendment if he punishes you for what you say.

Most every law has boundaries. For example, in some situations a person may not have the freedom to say just anything. A person cannot yell, “There’s a fire, everyone out!” in a crowded movie theater when in fact there is no fire.

Also, communicating falsehoods about someone may be illegal. Defamation, which is a false statement concerning someone that is published and damaging to the person’s reputation, curbs freedom of speech. Perjury, or lying while under oath, also curbs the ability to speak freely.

If law has a favorite color, then that color is probably gray. Because I am a labor and employment law lawyer, I have come to realize that law is rarely black and white, cut and dry, or all or nothing. 

Cheers! You have the freedom of speech in America! Well . . . mostly.

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