Can an employer punish an employee for having non-work related, private, peer-to-peer conversations while at work?

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Can an employer punish an employee for having non-work related, private, peer-to-peer conversations while at work?

Our company has audio and video surveillance in each location. It is a retail environment. When there are no customers in the store, can the company enforce a “no non-work related conversations ever” and punish the employee for such?

Asked on June 19, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Yes, a company may do this. Employers may set terms and conditions for employment; those terms and conditions can include no non-work-related conversations. (Remember: 1st Amendment free speech and freedom of assocation rights apply against the government; they do not apply to private employers.) Employees could be disciplined or even terminated for violating this policy.


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