The Confederate Flag, the First Amendment, and the ACLU

Apropos yesterday’s Confederate flag / First Amendment post, here’s a story from March: A Delaware Department of Transportation employee had, for 17 years, a decorative plate that said “REDNECK” on a Confederate flag background. A coworker complained, charging “harassment,” and the department threatened him with discipline “if he continued to drive his vehicle with the plate on state property.” But after the ACLU of Delaware intervened, the Department apparently decided not to reprimand him, even if he continued displaying the plate.

Note that the government acting as employer has much more power over on-the-job speech of its employees than it does over the speech of private citizens and private employees (more on that here). In particular, it’s possible that the Department could restrict the display of items that cause substantial tension among coworkers, though it sounds like in this instance the Department ultimately chose not to do this (whether based on a judgment that the plate wasn’t disruptive enough, a desire to avoid litigation, or something else).

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