Can my employer suspend/fire me for socializing with friends that are employees as well when we are on our personal time?

UPDATED: Aug 29, 2011

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Can my employer suspend/fire me for socializing with friends that are employees as well when we are on our personal time?

I am an employee at a national food chain. They recently created a new policy that states that if I am seen socializing with other employees, even if it’s on my personal time (according to their verbalexplanation) I will be suspended pending possible termination. Not only this, but they are subtly singling myself and 2 other employees out with this policy, and none of us are in a relationship so no fraternization policies are being broken, although at the same time they are allowing a manager to date a crew member. Where do I stand on this matter?

Asked on August 29, 2011 Kentucky


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

An employee can legally mandate just about whatever it wants with respect to employee behavior; additionally not all rules need be equally applied to all employees. This is known as "at will" employment. Basically, an employer can dictate the terms and conditions of employment; in turn an employee can choose to work (or continue to work) for an employer or not.

Exceptions to the above would be if legally actionable discrimination was a factor in the employee's treatment (i.e. different treatment based on race, religion, etc), or if there is a union agreement or employment contract prohibiting such action, or there is conflicting company policy on the issue.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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