Freedom to assemble. Freedom of speech; it’s part of our constitutional rights.
But expressing yourself at a protest or a march – could you be putting our job on the line?
“What it really depends on is whether or you’re a government employee or a private employee,” explains Greensboro attorney Kevin Harrison.
Harrison says some government employees give up some of those first amendment rights for the job. If you work for a private employer at an at-will state like North Carolina, you could get fired at any time, for any reason as long as it is not illegal.
“Your employer under at-will could fire you because they don’t like the socks you wear that day,” Harrison tells. “It’s not discriminatory. It’s not in violation of any other law. It’s completely ridiculous. But it’s completely legal.”
How can constitutional amendments not apply here? Harrison says those rights prevent the government from interfering, not action from employers.
A fire-able offense could be going to a protest or supporting a cause your boss doesn’t support.
But there are some things you can check to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk of losing your job:
Check your employee handbook for any rules or policies about protesting or any action that could make the company look bad.
If you do go to a demonstration, make sure it’s not keeping you from doing your work. You’ll also want to check to see if the protest has a permit and avoid doing anything that could get you arrested.
Harrison says it’s important to add that just because you’re an at-will employee doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak your mind.
“What you’ve just got to make sure is if you’re going to be out at such an event. If you’re going to be outspoken at it, that you understand what the consequences could be.”
(© 2017 WFMY)