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New York Construction Law

Bad Language: A Good Reason to Fire People?

Posted in Labor & Employment in Construction

What is an employer to do when an employee goes on a tirade at the work place or on social media?  In general, an employee cannot be disciplined by his employer for statements about work-place concerns, such as wages or conditions of employment. Even the employee’s use of obscenities may be legally protected if used while complaining about the terms and conditions of employment.

Before terminating an employee for the use of vulgar and profane language, consider the following:

Obscene Language

  • A clearly defined written policy prohibiting the use of obscene or vulgar language demonstrates the company prohibits this type of misconduct and supports discipline.
  • Disciplinary action for an employee’s violation of its language policy will be viewed more favorably if the company enforces its policy consistently.
  • Even with a defined language policy, if the company has a history of tolerating the use of profanity by its employees without discipline, then the statement is more likely to be protected.
  • If the employee’s comment is contemporaneous with the employees raising work-place concerns or complaints with management, then the speech is more likely to be protected.

We encourage you to consult with an attorney before taking disciplinary action as a result of employee language.