Video: Columbus Labor Attorney Explains ‘Freedom of Speech’ for Employees
COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Facebook and Twitter posts have become a pop-culture norm but they can also lead to trouble, especially with your boss. A Portland man has been fired from major retail store Nordstrom after writing a threatening post about killing police officers.
“Remember, the freedom of speech we talk about is guaranteed with respect to action that a governmental agency takes against a citizen,” says Columbus labor attorney, Taylor Smith.
Aaron Hodges is now out of a job after making inflammatory comments about shooting police officers on his personal Facebook page. Nordstrom Department Store in Portland fired Hodges after the post went viral and receiving several complaints from the public. Hodges’ Facebook page contained a link to Nordstrom and a photo of him at work in the store. Columbus labor attorney Taylor Smith says private employers can take action against employees who violate company policy.
“A person does not have a first amendment right to say that with respect to Nordstrom. Now if they were a governmental employee they would have the right to say that,” says Smith.
Nordstrom released a statement saying in part, “we do not tolerate violence, violent conversation or threats of any kind.” Hodges has since removed his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Smith says under the National Labor Relations Act, speech about company policy is protected but anything else could lead to termination.
“If that employee at Nordstrom had said instead ‘I think the company policies on compensation stink.’ They might well not have been able to take action against that employee. There we can call it a freedom of speechm,” says Smith.
Hodges has since said that he was trying to express that all lives deserve respect. He also says he understands the company’s decision and accepts responsibility. Nordstrom has also apologized to anyone offended by the remarks.