16/8/17

Do employees have the right to free speech? The Google paradigm



Dimitris Gikas
Director of Educational Programmes & Actilvities
Professor of Language and Literature at IIEK American Education


I’ve read about James Damore, the Google employee who was fired because of a memo, by which he expressed his opinion about why women were underrepresented in technology – not only in particular (Google), but also in general.

I’ve also read a lot of articles written about. Some of them focused on a very specific question: do the employees have the right to free speech?

Do they? I’m not a lawyer, so I do not refer to the legal right. I understand that in U.S.A. there are policies such as at-will employment, which could give some very incomprehensible answers for a European worker. The at-will employment specifies that an employer have the right to fire an employee for any reason at all.

Those who support that kind of policy are usually integrated into the liberals. This is understandable. Entrepreneurship, for the liberals, is the highest human action. Anything that promotes financial gain is permissible.

According to that perception, an employee does not have the right to speech, when that right can agitate a company’s working environment. An employee who disputes his boss, his supervisor, the entire company’s philosophy, cannot remain an employee, can he?

Philosophically, that kind of perception is against democracy. Not only in a political level. Democracy is not just a political theory. It’s a way of life. A living philosophy. A constitutional way of being, behaving, living, working with other people. Of course, in business, there are limitations. For example, you cannot reveal the secrets of your company to others. You cannot do whatever you want, only what your boss or supervisor says. You cannot act against your company’s interests. But, firing an employee for his or her expressed opinion about a general or a particular business policy, it’s more than illegal. It’s immoral. It’s anti-democratic.

Where is the end of it? Which are the limitations of policies such as at-will employment? Could an employer fire an employee, because he supported gay rights? Because he is not in favor of animal testing? Could an employer fire an employee, because he fell in love with a colleague?

To do your job well must be the main working constitutional law. Expressing your opinion freely, even if it conflicts with the company you are working on, should not be a reason to lose your job. Unless we don’t want workers, also free members of a human democratic society, but slaves…

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