Category Archives: 3. News You Can Use

How Much Freedom of Speech Do Employees Have?

Workers who want to exercise their Constitutional right to free speech might want to think before they speak. Whether an employee leans right or left, wears red or blue, the bottom line is that employers have the final word on what can and cannot be said at work.

Attorney Jim Hendricks, an expert in employment and labor law, explains: “The First Amendment only prohibits the government from restricting free speech—not your employer,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

It is true that public employees are covered by state and federal statutes protecting freedom of speech. However, private companies have the right to decide what is acceptable for their employees to say when it comes to political speech.

For example, if an employee’s political opinions disrupt the business or its workers, the employer has the right to fire that individual. Similarly, when another employee interprets a co-worker’s comments as harassment or a personal insult, those comments could be deemed disruptive enough to merit termination. The upshot is that the business owner’s rights supersede those granted by the Constitution.

It’s not all arbitrary, however. Employers must be consistent in implementing free-speech policies. If they allow a MAGA cap, they must also allow a BLM pin. But since blatantly divisive opinions in the workplace can lead to tension that affects productivity, nearly 75 percent of workplaces prohibit any politically-inspired attire. 

Experts suggest that before spouting off, workers should check employee manuals and read up on state laws affecting political speech in the workplace.   

Discussion

  1. What kinds of clashes may erupt when employees voice strong political opinions at work?
  2. Do the laws that govern free speech in the workplace unfairly suppress discourse? 
  3. What are the pros and cons of prohibiting politically-inspired attire? 

_______________

Source: Steele, A. (2020, October 25). Is political speech protected in the workplace? Here’s what you need to know. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com

Eyes Are on Corporate Responses to Current Events

Using metrics such as environmental impact and workplace diversity, financiers have started to gauge a company’s viability as an investment by examining its social responsibility record. Recent events have only increased investors’ desire to fund organizations with policies that address social issues for a simple reason: They believe those companies will weather financial downturns better than those that do not.

Some companies have responded to the pressure to do good. To fight the pandemic, perfume companies Christian Dior, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder started producing hand sanitizer. General Motors switched gears from manufacturing cars to making face masks. GM also converted one of its factories to help produce ventilators. One Italian energy firm made its supercomputer available to researchers looking for ways to battle the coronavirus.  

But perhaps most noteworthy to investors is the way in which organizations have begun to reexamine their internal hiring practices. Some investors are pressuring organizations to prioritize diversity and inclusion by publicizing their workplace demographics and initiating plans and to bring underrepresented groups into their workforce, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. However, all companies are not eager to share their employee demographics because more often than not, those data do not demonstrate a commitment to workplace diversity.

Indeed, advocates for change say that the drive for more inclusion in corporate America will be an uphill battle. As an example, they point to the actions of the global sportswear company Adidas. At the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, Adidas declared its anti-racism stance; nevertheless, actual change within the organization backing up those words remains aspirational.

Still, the new reality is clear: Companies that address human rights, employee well-being, and diversity catch investors’ attention. Firms that adapt are more likely to thrive, says one analyst. Those that don’t will fail.

Discussion

  1. Why have the pandemic and social unrest in the U.S. forced companies to rethink their operations?
  2. Why do you think research shows that diverse workforces outperform those that lack diversity? 
  3. Which factors prompt investors to use their influence to effect change in U.S. companies’ behavior?

New Rules for Landing a Job in the Covid-19 Era

Video job interviews have become a fixture during the Covid-19 pandemic and
are likely here to stay.

While there is no doubt that the pandemic has had a negative impact on employment, job seekers still have some reason for optimism.

According to the HR software company Paycor, over half of small and midsize companies plan to hire full-time workers this year.

However, the current job market differs greatly from the situation before the pandemic, and job hunters need to be aware of the new rules for landing a position.

First and foremost is to maintain a robust presence on LinkedIn. Job seekers who use the platform are almost three times as likely to land a position at a company with which they have a LinkedIn connection.

The new rules of hiring also require applicants to be able to voice their career goals clearly. Job seekers who are uncertain about their career goals or who are just looking to earn a paycheck will find it impossible to sell themselves to a future employer. No company wants to provide a new-hire’s in-between or second-choice job.

Job hunters must also be realistic and honest. If the job requires employees to be in the office occasionally and the applicant is unwilling or lives too far away to make that feasible, the job seeker should not hide those limitations from the interviewer.

Know which industries are still hiring in your area. Health care, logistics and transportation, and real estate industries are recovering, while the arts, recreation and travel, and finance sectors are still shedding positions.

Finally, job candidates should prepare for an entirely virtual hiring process. Social distancing ended in-person interviews for the time being. To stand out when interviewing from home, focus on making a good first impression by looking the part.

Experts say it’s fine to be the most dressed-up person in the interview. Google’s director of talent and outreach advises starting the interview with friendly questions and being prepared with anecdotes that illustrate strengths and skills.

Discussion
What kinds of comments can you use to break the ice in the first moments of an online interview?

  1. Why are anecdotes an effective way to talk about skills?
  2. Why is a presence on LinkedIn mandatory in today’s workplace?