Thursday, February 17, 2011

”Freedom of Speech” is not for Government Employees?

Government institutions where it is federal, state, or local are among the largest employers in the state of New Mexico. The local news services have been reporting that Mayor R.J. Berry, the mayor for the City of Albuquerque and an elected official, along with his administration is having a crisis. An employee using “Facebook” which is a social media internet site to express personal views toward his job that are not supported by the mayor or his administration is causing the mayor some public pains. The Firefighters are putting stickers on their uniforms that say “FMB” but the meaning of those stickers is unclear since union leaders say it means one thing while the rank and file says it means something else.

So the question is dose the government as a major employer here in the state have the right to control an employee’s freedom of speech when they are not on duty? Do employees have the right to wear stickers and other items on their uniforms that express personal views while on duty?

Government as a large institution has the serious responsibility to uphold the rights of the America people when it comes to the U.S. Constitution. “Freedom of Expression” and “Freedom of Speech” are among our basic rights when it comes to what is spelled out in the constitution. Republicans “cry foul” when it comes to interfering in the freedoms of large corporations but when it comes to big brother controlling their own employees they can be some of the harshest managers. I do find it very funny that republicans support Freedom of Political Speech for large corporations but not government employees. Can we say double standard…?

Should there be limits to what and where employees can express their personal views? Yes, of course information should not be released on some sensitive issues or if it puts individuals in danger of physical harm but when it comes to personal feeling and emotions toward the job then employees need an outlet for those emotions.

Firefighters should be allowed to place stickers on their own personal vehicles and apparel even if the administration does not agree with it but maybe they should take them off their uniforms and caps. Facebook is a personal social media site and as long as it is not the Facebook site for the government agency in question then government managers should have no say on what is posted by an employee. Only if an employee reacts to a member of the public at work in the same manner as is expressed on the site and that it can be proved that he/she is guilty of violating standards set for an employee’s work performance should they be fired.

The government can say that they hold their employees to a higher standard but if you cut off all lines of expression to an employee then you invite trouble in the future that can only harm the public, government employers and government employees.