It happens quickly. Without thinking, you make an off-hand remark at work that your boss does not appreciate. Maybe you express a controversial opinion to another employee, for instance. Your boss, who’s standing in the doorway, doesn’t agree with your opinion.
In the end, you get fired. They tell you that you’re just not a fit for the workplace.
Is that a wrongful termination? After all, you know that you have a Constitutional right to freedom of speech in the United States. You clearly got fired for what you said. Doesn’t that violate these fundamental rights?
It does not. Unless you work for the government, you generally do not have freedom of speech while you are on the job. Some things you say can affect your employment status.
The thing to remember is that “freedom of speech” is just intended to keep the government from controlling what people say with fines, jail time and other legal ramifications. On the job, your employer still has a right to create a code of conduct or, if you’re an at-will employee, fire you based on opinions you express.
This doesn’t restrict your right to freedom of speech because the government wasn’t involved. You didn’t go to jail. You did have the right to say whatever you said. Your employer also had the right to fire you.
That said, you still have some legal protections. You can’t be fired based on things like your religion, race or gender, for example. If you think that you were wrongfully terminated, make sure you know what legal steps you may be able to take.