Is it legal to request employees to remove or cover any political or religious propaganda they displayed on their vehicles while parked at work?

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Is it legal to request employees to remove or cover any political or religious propaganda they displayed on their vehicles while parked at work?

If the “no propaganda rule” is clearly stated in the employee handbook, can it be enforced if someone refuses to cover or remove their signs, bumper stickers, magnets, etc. that are displayed on their vehicles, which are parked on the business owners’ private property? We do not wish such material to intimidate or offend other employees, clients or owners, or to send a wrong message to the public.

Asked on April 13, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Montana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

So long as the employer is fully private (i.e. not a governmental unit, or an entity, like many universities, which draws so much support from the government that some of the rules relating to the government apply to it), it may require employees to remove or cover religious or political slogans, statements, etc. on any vehicles they bring to work (or to customers' locations). The First Amendment guarantees of freedoms of religion and speech do not apply to private employers. The only restriction is that you may not discriminate against employees due to religion, so whatever rule your promulgate should even-handed apply to all statements of opinion or position--i.e. to religious ones, to political ones, to social commentary (such as that someone is anti-abortion or pro-gun), etc. Basically, you may wish to bar all bumper stickers, magnets, and the like other than ones required for parking access somewhere.


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