CAN AN EMPLOYEE BE FIRED FOR PUBLISHING EXTREMIST OPINIONS?
Surprisingly to many, the answer is “Yes”. How come an employee’s opinions are not protected by our Constitutional Right of Freedom of Speech? The answer is relatively simple. The Constitution protects us from adverse action taken by the GOVERNMENT to curb free speech and impinge upon our freedoms. Generally, an employee’s endorsement of White Supremacy, Nazism, throwing Nazi salutes and the like, while protected from government interference, can cast adverse light on an employer and its business. If an employer determines that to be the case, the employer can terminate an employee even though the reason is a matter of speech and opinion. Speech in a private context by a private citizen is only protected if it applies to a matter of public concern. Endorsing an extremist view is not a matter of public concern. Courts have held, for example, that racist comments may cause the public to lose faith in the employer company and accordingly, have upheld the employer’s right to terminate the employee
With the recent events in Charlottesville and the horrific death and injury arising out of what some refer to as “free speech”, this question may become increasingly important to employers and employees.– Stay tuned!