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Limiting worker speech

An employee's right to speak does not end when they get a job or report to work. Employment law has some protections that covers certain speech, but workers also need to know its restrictions.

The First Amendment protects speech from government intrusion and applies to public employers. It or other federal laws also govern some private employers and actions.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, private-sector employees in union and non-union workplaces may engage in concerted labor activity. These include discussions on wages and other employment conditions.

Workers may also speak about possible illegal activities in the workplace. Federal law protects workers who complain about issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination or workplace safety violations.

Social media has provided new challenges, and employers have wrestled with making valid policies. Generally, workers have the right to take part in lawful activities when they are not at work and using their private accounts or devices.

The NRLA also protects certain social media activities. These include protected activities such as discussion of labor-relations issues and workplace conditions.

The National Labor Relations Board, in fact, ruled that social media posts may receive protection even if they include certain profane language or statements that may be perceived as being disloyal to the employer.

Employees should be aware of certain restrictions. They do not possess the right to make racist, sexist or discriminatory statements. The NRLB has been recently more favorable to employers on these issues apart from stopping workers from speaking about workplace conditions and employment terms.

An employee may need legal assistance concerning their right to free speech and other rights in Michigan. An employment attorney can help assure that employers do not violate these rights and act when violations occur.

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