Question: Will the First Amendment protect me from my private employer’s
employee conduct regulations?
Answer: We often hear discussion of the First Amendment, especially during a
Presidential election year. After all, the First Amendment covers not
only freedom of speech, but also freedom of the press, freedom of religion,
as well as freedom of peaceful assembly. But from whom does the First
Amendment protect you? The answer, quite simply, is the government. The
First Amendment prohibits the government from intruding upon these basic
That being said, our question this week focuses on a
private employer, not the government. To the surprise of some, the First Amendment
does not protect you from a
private employer. Thus, if you state something obscene or in violation of your
private employer’s code of conduct, you can be terminated notwithstanding
the First Amendment. Of course, this article only focuses on the First
Amendment, so there very well may be another means of recourse, including
statutory law or administrative law in the labor field. However, with
respect to the First Amendment, the amendment will protect you from the
government, but not a
You may be asking yourself: how is there not total chaos with such an amendment
protecting freedom of speech, religion and the press from the government?
Well, as one may imagine, there are certain limits on the First Amendment.
For example, one cannot go into a crowded theater and yell “fire”
to induce a mass panic. Likewise, the government can regulate the exercising
of your First Amendment rights by requiring a permit before holding a
massive rally or parade. Additionally, there are laws against disturbing
the peace, such as disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication in Florida.
In other words, though there is a First Amendment right to speech, the
press and religion, there are some regulations with respect to how one
can enjoy their right. Even the media must comply with certain Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) regulations with respect to what images
or language they broadcast over the airwaves, such as NBC, ABC, CBS, etc.
As always, if you have any concerns over whether you can legally do something,
such as hold a massive rally, parade, or peaceful protest in the public
domain, call my office before taking your desired action and let us help
guide you for how to express yourself legally. We are only seven digits
away at 215-0628. And, of course, use your ultimate form of expression
tomorrow by voting on Election Day. There are many important races, not
simply the Presidential race, so celebrate our democracy by exercising
your freedom and voting this year.