Issues of Employment, Age, and Freedom of Speech
Every individual has his or her human rights. Some of these rights include: life, liberty, equality, freedom of speech and others. These rights play a very important role in the overall well being of an individual since these compliments the very idea of his or her humanity. As a result, it is essential that human rights should be uphold and protected. The Constitution of a country, which is the highest law in that state, has the provisions that assure that these human rights are indeed safeguarded. However, despite the fact that freedom of speech is regarded as a human right there are still some technicalities in the interpretation and implementation of it. There are instances wherein the right of an individual from freedom of speech contradicts the right of a person to be free from harassment and discrimination. This is greatly exemplified with the issue of whether the constitution protects offensive speech at work.
According to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, it explicitly prohibits the government of the country to make laws that infringe the freedom of speech. This is clearly proven in this amendment, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free excise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition Government for redress of grievances” (Mount, 2008).
On the other hand, this right to freedom of speech sometimes does not coincide with the laws protecting people from discrimination and harassment. Based upon the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the federal government should not deprive individuals of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment also support the protection of human rights as it prohibits the violation of an individual’s right of due process and equal protection (Mount, 2008). As a result, the right of an individual of equal protection established a limit in the authority of the state and federal government to discriminate in their employment practices. They should not treat their employees and even job applicants unequally due to their membership in a particular group may it be in terms of sex, race, religion, and other societal groupings. Moreover, the due process is also requires government employees to be given a fair procedural process before they can be terminated from work especially if it involves their liberty such as their right to freedom of speech.
In the case of Pool v. VanRheen the conflict between freedom of speech and discrimination is seen. Vera Pool is an African-American woman that was appointed to the position of Commander of the Corrections Support Division. She complained that she was unjustly demoted and her salary was cut-off because of the discrimination that is presence in her workplace. However, the court found out that Vera Pool was not demoted because she was discriminated but rather due to the fact that her immediate and only superior “lost confidence in her judgment and her ability to be an effective commander” (United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 2002). The basis for such decision coming from her superior is supported by valid arguments on Pool’ shortcomings and lack of judgment. Moreover, the defendants were able to prove that the legitimate administrative interests outweighed Pool’s First Amendment rights.
In this sense, it can be concluded that the issue of whether the United States Constitution protects employees who utter offensive comments at work is dependent and subject to the interpretation of the courts. This is due to the fact that there is no clear and specific provision that protects such offensive comments. In relation to this, there requisites that must be address in order to prove that there is indeed discrimination or harassment that happened in the workplace due to an individual’s freedom of speech. Nevertheless, there are cases like Pool v. VanRheen that shows that legitimate administrative interests outweigh freedom of speech. As a result, the conflict between the freedom of speech and discrimination is actually a case-to-case basis.
Mount, S. (2008). The United Constitution. Retrieved January 23, 2009, from
United States Court of Appeals. (2002). Pool v. VanRheen. Retrieved January 23, 2009, from