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Free Speech And Employee Rights

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I hadn’t intended to write a full post about this since Yglesias was so obviously trolling:

But since similar points have been made in this thread, and since Matt after all is sincerely anti-labor and anti-labor protection, it’s worth spelling out a few points that should be obvious:

  • To take the question at a face value it wasn’t intended to convey, I of course think that Pax Dickinson should be entitled to any labor protections a similarly situated feminist worker should be. ( Nb: rights to due process and the need to show cause does not mean that employees have the right to say or do anything without being fired.)
  • But, of course, as many people (including me) pointed out, this question is based on a non-sequitur since Dicksinson is an executive and wouldn’t be represented by a union and wouldn’t be protected by most labor law.  And pointing this out is hardly “nitpicking,” as Matt subsequently asserted.  The distinction between labor and management is important in multiple ways that are reflected in most contractual and statutory protections.  People in management positions have more power, and that matters.   Executives represent the values of a company to the public in the way that people who clean the restrooms don’t, and that matters.  And executives generally have extensive hiring and supervisory authority, and in this context that really matters.
  • A commenter says that, in the context of employee rights, “[i]f the actual content of your views (odious or not) it taken into account, you are not enjoying free speech: you are enjoying censored speech.”  This kind of argument is so transparently silly it’s clear that even the commenter can’t possibly believe it.  You can’t take the content of speech made by employees into account at all?  A Microsoft executive repeatedly tweets that Windows 8 sucks, she can’t be fired because the company is required to adhere to First Amendment standards and be neutral between supporting Microsoft products and criticizing them?  Sean Hannity decides to spend every show talking about how the Affordable Care Act is the greatest legislation ever passed by the United States Congress, but Fox News can’t fire him?  To re-state this argument is to refute it.
  • In other words, it doesn’t violate any serious standard of extraconstitutional free speech to fire someone for speech that is relevant to their job performance.
  • Dickinson’s tweets were obviously relevant to his job performance.  Someone with the power to hire tech people publicly expresses the view that women who can write code are like unicorns, and who has expressed similar views often enough to make clear that this isn’t a misfired joke but reflects his beliefs?  It’s absurd to claim that this has no connection to his ability to perform his job, presuming that Business Insider is interested in recruiting and retaining talented women.  Dickinson’s apologists make it seem as if he was fired for tweeting an endorsement of Gary Johnson or something.  That would be objectionable (even if it wouldn’t be prohibited by most labor law since he was in management), but of course that’s not the case.
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