“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – Ronald Reagan
Many employers can relate to the above quote from President Reagan. Unfortunately, many politicians forget this sage wisdom, at least when it is convenient to do so. The most recent example being an Alabama Republican politician’s recent announcement to introduce a legislation that essentially intrudes upon a private sector employer’s decision to discipline an employee.
Specifically, Alabama Republican state Senator Jerry Fielding announced his plan to introduce a resolution that calls for the support of Mr. Robertson and a reversal of the decision made by Mr. Robertson’s employer to suspend him for the preceding comments.
We previously discussed the firestorm created by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s statements about homosexuals and precivil rights race relations. See Of Ducks and Men – Duck Dynasty and the Misunderstanding of Religious Discrimination and First Amendment Rights in the Workplace.
A draft of Mr. Fielding’s resolution makes it clear it is legislation for one; It would only apply to Phil Robertsen and his family who – according to the resolution – have “served as ambassadors of the love and grace of the Heavenly Father through their exemplary lives on and off the camera.”
The resolution further chastises Mr. Robertson’s employer and pronounces that the employer should not be able to regulate its workplace when it comes to Mr. Robertson’s speech. Specially, it reads as follows:
Phil should not be penalized in any way for practicing freedom of speech, but should be celebrated as a hero for courageously revealing his self-truth and Christian ideals in a world that can be unkind towards those with a conservative mind-set; and Whereas Phil Robertson and his family’s admirable stance on marriage, family, and faith reflects the meritorious ideals of the fine citizens of the entire State of Alabama, and it is a tremendous privilege to express our utmost solidarity for them; now therefore, Be it resolved by the Legislature of Alabama …. that this chamber of persons stand united in support of Phil Robertson and his family, and in opposition to the A&E Network’s deplorable action of suspending Phil indefinitely from Duck Dynasty for relaying his Christian beliefs.
Mr. Fielding’s proposal is no more than legislative chum thrown into the political feeding frenzy surrounding the Duck Dynasty issue. But as a management-side employment attorney, this sort of unwarranted intrusion into what is essentially a garden variety employment discipline issue is unnecessary and improper.
After all the First Amendment, reads “Congress shall make no law” not “private sector employers shall make no law” relative to the First Amendment. Going back to the above quote by Mr. Reagan and regardless of your company’s views on sexual orientation, LGBT issues, etc., is there any employer or shareholder who really believes extending First Amendment rights into private sector workplaces would be a good thing?
For more information about complying with federal and Michigan employment laws or your employment law rights, contact Jason Shinn. He is a Michigan employment law attorney who has represented employers and