Dear Stuck Between Bigotry and Freedom:
The good news about America is that whether you cling to outdated, insensitive, and potentially offensive ways of expressing
yourself or try to get others to understand a new era of inclusion and diversity, you are protected by law. However, our right
to expression primarily only extends to our homes and public domain. If, however, we are on private property and employed
in a private enterprise, we are subject to the policies of that organization if we take a paycheck.
Shawn McVey, MA, MSW
Consider this advice from attorney Todd Wulffson, a partner with the California law firm of Carothers, DiSante, and Freudenberger:
"Given the fact that freedom of speech is part of the Bill of Rights and taught to us in elementary school, people have the
misconception that it applies in all instances. The reality is that freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights only applies to
actions taken by the government. A private employer can, and virtually all do, dictate what and how an employee deals with
customers, other employees, and the public, whether it's by instructing employees what to say to customers or by proscribing
certain conduct—for example, prohibiting sexually harassing comments, offensive statements, or disparaging the business."
Need help now?
Double check with an attorney in your state to review your state's laws, but it's likely your manager can tell the employee
to remove the offensive decoration or park the car off the employer's property. Remember, as an employee, you can always choose
to leave a business if freedom of expression is more important to you than a paycheck or work satisfaction.—Shawn
Got a question? Ask Shawn.
Maybe you're tired of babysitting your team members. Perhaps you're looking for strategies to beat a bully. Shawn can help.
Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory boards and CEO of McVey Management Solutions in Chicago. Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org
. Then visit http://dvm360.com/mcvey to read McVey's advice on other hot topics, including how to talk to angry clients, the top 10 ways to kill team communication,
what to do when your doctor disses you, and more.