General Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Is it legal to give up individual rights(freedom of speech for example) through a collective bargaining agreement?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (6672 points ) March 22nd, 2009
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

7 Answers

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Anything that is in a contract can supercede constitutional rights within limits if it is written into the contract. I had this whole discussion around private schools, and free speech. When you sign an agreement, you are agreeing to those terms. If you disagree with the terms, don’t sign a contract. If you have agreed that someone is your bargaining agent, then you are agreeing to abide by what they decide. Otherwise employment is at free will. Find another job.

DrBill's avatar

Your cannot give up a right.

A contract can limit what you are allowed to say about privileged information your employer may have rights to.

You will always have a right to free speech, but if you violate the contract, you can be subject to the punishment(s) outlined in the contract.

cwilbur's avatar

Yes, it’s legal—you don’t actually give up the right (as DrBill notes) but you can agree to certain terms on your use of it. For instance, I might agree to pay you $100 a month if you don’t advocate for Ron Paul’s brand of libertarianism. You still have the right to free speech, but if you do, you’re breaching the contract, and you give up the right to sue me for the money I agreed to give you. Alternately, if I find out that you were speaking out in favor of libertarianism in a month in which I paid you, I can sue you to recover that $100 on the grounds that you were in breach of your contract.

Adding collective bargaining to the mix doesn’t change that. All you’re doing is empowering someone else to negotiate on your behalf; once the negotiation is done, you get to decide whether to sign the contract or not. If you sign it, you’re bound by what the negotiator worked out; if you don’t sign it, you’re out of a job. If the negotiator doesn’t have the same priorities as you in negotiation the contract, that’s an unfortunate circumstance, but in the end you get to decide if you want to abide by the contract.

Judi's avatar

You can’t give up fair housing rights in a contract… I don’t know why you should be able to give up fair employment rights… Hmm… Interesting question.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

This comes up a lot in private schools with free speech and dress down days. The school has a right to dictate what you can and cannot wear, with regards to t-shirts, slogans, etc.

laureth's avatar

The first amendment guarantees that the government won’t abridge your freedom of speech. Your employer may do so, though, with or without a contract. If your workplace abridges your freedom of speech, that is not the same as the government doing so.

Of course, this just echoes what the other folks have said here in different words.

cwilbur's avatar

@Judi: that’s because there’s specific state law to the contrary, and it’s state law that generally governs contracts. There may be something in each state’s law that specifically protects the right of free speech in employment contracts.

But for the most part, unless there has been a significant abuse in the past (as with landlords and tenant rights), there won’t be laws about those aspects of contracts.

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