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ScottyMacEsq
ScottyMacEsq, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 11557
Experience:  Licensed Texas General Practice Attorney
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I am a student in Washington, DC and my employer, from the

Customer Question

I am a student in Washington, DC and my employer, from the university, is telling me that, in order to continue in this job (a job I've been in for a year), I need to leave the non-related student organization that I am in.

Could this be a violation of my rights? The student organization does not interfere with my job and vice versa. I don't want to leave the student organization but don't know how to articulate it in a legal sense.

(Side note: in my employment agreement, there was nothing preventing me from being in the student organization or any civic organization)
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

ScottyMacEsq :

Thank you for using JustAnswer. I am researching your issue and will respond shortly.

ScottyMacEsq :

Is this a private or a public university?

Customer:

It is a private university.

ScottyMacEsq :

Thank you. While a private university would be subject to any written contracts or written policies that it has in place, it is not subject to the civil liberties protections in the Constitution. That is, if this were a public university, and this was not a "content neutral" policy of the university (but rather discriminated against certain organizations, but not others) then that would be a 1st amendment violation, because the university would be public.

ScottyMacEsq :

A private entity absolutely can limit your freedom of speech, religion, press, etc...

ScottyMacEsq :

And the university (being private) can place those restrictions on the terms of your employment.

ScottyMacEsq :

An employment agreement being silent on a matter does not preclude the employer from bringing those restrictions up at a later time (unless it says that there will be no additional restrictions).

ScottyMacEsq :

Only if it gave you an affirmative right to continue in that organization would it be actionable against the later restriction against participating.

Customer:

Okay, thank you. Out of curiosity, what are the civil liberties protections provided in the Constitution to the same situation with public universities?

ScottyMacEsq :

In short, the fact that it is a private university, and not public, makes all the difference in the world, and so long as this is not expressly discriminatory based on race, age, gender, religion, or disability (which would violate employment laws), they can put these restrictions in there.

ScottyMacEsq :

If it were a public university, it would be the first amendment to the Constitution.

ScottyMacEsq :

(freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc...)

ScottyMacEsq :

The Constitution applies to the government (and governmental entities, including public universities)

ScottyMacEsq :

But it does not apply to private enterprises. You can wear a political shirt in a public park without fear of being removed because of that shirt, but if you walk into a business on private land, they can remove you expressly because of that content.

ScottyMacEsq :

That is, there are no "civil liberties" where the government is not involved. The Constitution protects from infringement of those rights by the government, not by other non-governmental entities.

Customer:

However, could they ban you from wearing that shirt in your personal, private time?

Customer:

Thats

Customer:

That's really my last question. I understand limits on the job, but do those limits apply away from when one is at work?

ScottyMacEsq :

Yes, actually they could.

ScottyMacEsq :

There is no Federal law that pertains to employer restrictions of off-duty conduct.

ScottyMacEsq :

There is a DC law that pertains solely to smoking. That is, an employer cannot tell you that you cannot smoke, and terminate you if you do.

ScottyMacEsq :

But that's only to smoking, no other off-duty conduct is outside the reach of an employer.

ScottyMacEsq :

So an employer can say that you can't drink, or eat red meat, etc... and be entirely within their rights to do so.

Customer:

That is very interesting. The only barrier to that is an ethical, moral one, which is why, I'm sure, many employers don't tell you that you can not eat red meat, for instance. Thank you for your help. I think that answers my question perfectly.

ScottyMacEsq :

My pleasure.If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer. Please note that I don't get any credit for my answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX good luck to you!

Customer:

Thank you. I suppose it is worth asking: do you happen to know of any other legal precedents in other locations that allow involvement-at-will in civic organizations?

ScottyMacEsq :

A couple of states (California being one) says that an employer cannot restrict an employee from engaging in an otherwise legal activity in his or her off-duty time. But DC only has that apply to smoking.

Customer:

Okay. Thanks again for your help. Have a great day.

ScottyMacEsq, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 11557
Experience: Licensed Texas General Practice Attorney
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