Thursday, August 18, 2005

The boss has even more power than you thought

Don't think you have a First Amendment right to do this after work.

I didn't think much could shock me, but this news did:

Employers can forbid their workers from going to lunch together, attending each other's weddings, or doing anything else they might want to do with each other outside of work.

And there's nothing in federal labor laws to prevent it.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that a security company could ban "fraternizing" outside the job. Under labor law, theoretically employees have the right to talk about union activity -- something most bosses would prefer not be discussed -- after work. But federal law does not protect conversations about sports or the grandchildren. The First Amendment does not protect workers in this situation, as it is the company, not the government, which is prohibiting their speech. The First Amendment applies only to government and the company could legally fire workers who violate their policies.

Companies claim the policies aim to prevent sexual entanglements and exposure to sexual harassment lawsuits.

If I ever ran afoul of this sort of thing, I'd try to publicize it to the world -- this is a situation in which a boss can be made to look ridiculous. Even a management lawyer, Nate Kowalski, agreed: "In this day and age, you wouldn't expect many employers to be that stupid." Actually I wouldn't be surprised if many are that stupid -- but they probably don't want people noticing.

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