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Speaking Freely

Are you breaking First Amendment law when you fire that loudmouthed employee?

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This story appears in the August 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Suppose you have an employee who denounces your business decisions at every opportunity (and at the worst times), or one whose vocal opposition to gun control or abortion or government policy has become a constant irritant in the office. The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens a right to free speech, so you can't do anything about it. Or can you?

In many cases, you can. Workers assume they have a constitutional right to say almost anything they want, but the law protects only certain types of speech. And while the law in some states protects employees from retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights, courts often defer to employers who discipline workers over letting them speak their minds, if they have a legitimate business interest in doing so.

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