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Employment Blog

Watch Out - Protections Against Swearing at Boss

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on June 4, 2014
Filed under Employment

The National Labor Relations Board continues to reach out to provide protection to employees. In a recent decision, the Board concluded that an outburst in the workplace by an employee was considered protected speech, because the employee did not explicitly threaten violence and did not act in a violent fashion. The employee did, in a raised voice, call his supervisor by a number of unacceptable names using the "f" word in conjunction with other words. The employee even threatened the supervisor by saying that if the supervisor fired the employee, the supervisor would regret it.

The employee was terminated and filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The Board concluded the termination of the employee was in retaliation for conduct that occurred at a meeting, and that the employee should be protected from retaliation to better serve the goal of fostering collective action without unduly impairing the employer's interest in maintaining workplace order. In other words, an employee can use swear words when addressing a supervisor and not be subject to termination, because the statements may be considered protected speech.

This makes me wonder what will happen next. Is it protected speech to criticize the company in front of customers or can a company take action when there is a disruptive employee? I guess it remains to be seen.