Monday, July 16, 2007, 7/16/2007 09:26:00 AM

Ithaca Journal Finally Concludes First Amendment Is No Shield In Private Employment

By Todd
It's a slow news day here at the Womble Trade Secrets Blog. It must be a slow news day in Ithaca, New York as well because The Ithaca Journal has just published a piece informing Ithacans that, lo and behold, experts have informed them that at-will employees in a private place of business might not receive the protection from the First Amendment that they formerly thought they had.

The article quotes a recognized labor & employment specialist from Delaware to note "A lot of people think they're protected by the First Amendment in cases where they're not.” Perhaps it would have been a good idea for The Ithaca Journal to establish some context for its piece. We would have suggested the First Amendment itself, short enough for even the tiny newspaper to print. We'll do it here:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

That's it - that's the First Amendment. That would've fit in the piece, short as the piece is.

One of the two editors of this blog admits some bias favoring the Ithaca, New York area having been a law student there many moons ago. Ithacans are, in this editor's estimation, generally as smart or (oftentimes) smarter than the average bear. That said, we think that even more noteworthy than the fact that the First Amendment doesn't protect an employee when they disparage their manager or business owner on a blog is the fact that most Americans don't even know what the First Amendment provides, that it is expressly directed at CONGRESS making a LAW that inhibits speech. Why would the average employee think that the text of the First Amendment somehow protects them from discipline or termination in a private place of business? Poor reading comprehension skills? We doubt that is what the author of the piece meant to suggest. Our criticism of today's article is that The Ithaca Journal does nothing to ameliorate the sad state of affairs that many Americans haven't read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights but believe they understand those foundational documents full well, thank you very much.

If you haven't tired of this mini-rant, our last point is that the topic of trade secrets DOES show up in the article. This occurs late in the article where the author examines why an employer would even be examining an employee's blog writings or use of the internet to disparage the company or its management. The article concludes, correctly, that employees are not always using blogs or the internet to tout the company they work for to the world and that these activities might result in what has been called a "career-limiting gesture."

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

back to top