Speaking About Politics, A Fireable Offense? The Legality of Employee Speech Restrictions in the Entertainment Industry
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Chloe L. Kaufman*
Despite the commonly shared belief that Americans have an undeniable right to freedom of speech, private-sector employees receive no constitutional protection for employer regulations of or reactions to their speech and federal and state statutes provide extremely limited protections. Consequently, on-air professionals in the entertainment industry, including Curt Schilling, Kathy Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, Jemele Hill and Tomi Lahren have been terminated, suspended or otherwise retaliated against after making expressions of political speech deemed controversial by the public and their respective employers.
Tomi Lahren’s dispute against her employer demonstrates the severity of a private employer’s ability to restrict political speech under U.S. law. By analyzing Lahren’s complaint and the existing legal framework, this Note highlights how private employers’ unrestricted power disproportionately affects employees in the entertainment industry, risks a chilling effect on private employee speech across industries, and consequently cuts against the foundational values of American democracy.More →