Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- President Donald Trump has suggested that the NFL "fire or suspend" players who kneel during the national anthem. The statement has sparked a debate about whether athletes should have the right to protest before the game. The conversation has now crossed over to whether employees of a company can make such expressions in the workplace.
Before we answer the question, lets talk free speech and the First Amendment. The First Amendment says:
"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."
According to Cornell Law School, it guarantees freedom of expression of prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peacefully and to petition the government.
So what does this mean when it comes to the workplace?
“As a general rule, private employers can impose rules and standards on their employees including having to do with speech,” said Terry Venneberg, a Washington employment lawyer.
The First Amendment prohibits the government, not private companies, from imposing limits on free speech.
For employees in the private sector, beyond the big leagues, it is wise to know and understand their company’s code of conduct and ethics documents, as well as employment contracts. They should outline what someone is allowed to say or do while they are employed.