Understanding and responding to the business and legal impacts of COVID-19

Employers Must ‘Tread Lightly’ With Social Media Protest Posts

Reproduced with permission.  Published Jun. 17, 2020. Copyright 2020 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bloombergindustry.com>

Bloomberg Daily Labor Report, by Erin Mulvaney

The #BlackLivesMatter protests fighting racial injustice and police brutality erupting on the streets, as well as on social media, have legal implications about what workers can say or do in or out of the workplace.  The death of George Floyd inspired protests in towns and cities around the world and conversations on social media such as Facebook and Twitter exploded. Journalists have criticized their newspapers’ editorial decisions they say were harmful; academics of color detailed power imbalances with a Twitter hashtag #BlackintheIvoryTower; and researchers and scientists organized a mass sick day to protest unfair treatment.  The messages of these protests could overlap with a fight against racial discrimination in the workplace, but fall into a gray area of labor law, raising questions about what speech is protected and what power workers have to speak out and not face repercussions. The answer won’t necessarily be clear-cut, academics and employment attorneys say, but workers could have broad rights to protest racial injustice as a workplace condition.

“There are a tangle of protections and employees’ rights that butt up against each other,” said Laura Jacobsen, co-chair of the employment and labor law group with McDonald Carano.  “The employer needs to tread lightly.”  To read the entire article click here.


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