When it was enacted, the Bill of Rights enumerated idealistic ideas for a young United States, including the freedom of speech. While the First Amendment states that the government cannot pass laws “abridging the freedom of speech,” this has not been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as an absolute prohibition on government regulation of speech. Speech deemed less valuable, a determination made on the basis of the speech’s category and not its content, is granted less protection or none at all.
With the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the government has stepped into the workplace, allowing the National Labor Relations Board to influence the right of free speech in the work force, especially speech regarding unions and labor relations. While employees are guaranteed the right to organize free from employer interference, employers can still exert some control over the manner of organization, and even otherwise protected speech loses its protection where it is so “flagrant, insulting, defamatory, insubordinate, or fraught with malice” as to cause substantial disruption of or material interference with work. Robert D. Leiter, “Free Speech in Labor Relations,” The Journal of Business of the University of Chicago, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Jan., 1950).
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