Protesting by Taking a Knee

It is hard to ignore the recent news headlines of NFL players protesting during the national anthem by taking a knee, linking arms, or even skipping it entirely. What is even more difficult to overlook is President Donald Trump’s statement on September 29th 2017, in which he said it would be nice to see NFL team owners fire players that partake in this sort of protesting.

This topic has been very hot for the past month with viewers usually siding with three major stances:

  1. People outraged that there are conversations about reprimanding individuals who protest, and on some teams, actually penalties.
  2. People who insist that the act of protesting during the national anthem is utterly offensive, especially toward past and present military families.
  3. People who really just don’t care and just wish something of this nature was not in the news anymore.

There are a lot of political forces at play with this specific chain of events, but this blog is not taking a political approach. Rather, this piece is focusing the legality of employment and contract law and if NFL owners, or any other authoritative figure in a private company, chose to terminate employment of workers for protesting, if it would be legal or not.

In writing about this, we hope to help anyone going through similar problems whether you are an employee that was unjustly fired, or an employer who needs legal assistance to defend their actions if problems are to arise.

Legality of Private Employment

Generally, there is no protection of free speech in private employment. As an institution like the NFL is private and not public, this issue does not fall under the constitution, rather contracts that were agreed upon and signed by the parties involved. For the NFL and other private institutions in America, this issue comes down to if employers have the contractual right to fire their employees for for certain types of behavior, like protesting during the national anthem. The answer is that employers likely do have this right.

Connecticut is Different

As anyone that lives here can tell you, Connecticut is unique. One of the differences we have compared to many other states is that Connecticut state law extends the Constitutional right of freedom of speech to private employers. In short, this means that if the NFL, or any other private employer, were to operate in Connecticut and fired their workers for behavior considered to be protected by the first amendment at work, their employer would not have the legal right to terminate their employment.

As with everything in the legal field, nothing is black and white. There are dozens of caveats and factors from each side that can complicate matters like this dramatically. If you are an employer or worker in a matter like this, you have an argument.

We can help you!

Does your head hurt from being spun in circles be the laws’ extremely complicated answer to your very simple question? Want assistance for a matter like this? Call us at 203.870.6700 today and ask to speak with our extraordinary employment expert, Attorney William J. Whewell to see how he can help you!


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