I explain below why the Ninth Circuit’s Rodriguez decision applies to harassment lawsuits brought against private employers. Here I’d like to explain why and how it would apply to non-academic employers.
Rodriguez does say that its First Amendment analysis, and its statement that “Without the right to stand against society’s most strongly-held convictions, the marketplace of ideas would decline into a boutique of the banal, as the urge to censor is greatest where debate is most disquieting and orthodoxy most entrenched. The right to provoke, offend and shock lies at the core of the First Amendment” is “particularly so on college campuses.” But it didn’t say that it is only so on college campuses; the opinion’s rationale applies equally to other workplaces as well:
Plaintiffs no doubt feel demeaned by Kehowski’s speech, as his very thesis can be understood to be that they are less than equal. But that highlights the problem with plaintiffs’ suit. Their objection to Kehowski’s speech is based entirely on his point of view, and it is axiomatic that the government may not silence speech because the ideas it promotes are thought to be offensive. See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 448–49 (1969); Saxe v. State Coll. Area Sch. Dist., 240 F.3d 200, 204 (3d Cir. 2001) [written by then-Judge Alito –EV]; DeAngelis v. El Paso Mun. Police Officers Ass’n, 51 F.3d 591, 596–97 (5th Cir. 1995). “There is no categorical ‘harassment exception’ to the First Amendment’s free speech clause.” Saxe, 240 F.3d at 204; see also United States v. Stevens (“The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits.”)….
The Constitution embraces … a heated exchange of views, even (perhaps especially) when […]