Novak Quoted on How Employers Handle Employee Expression

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Novak Quoted on How Employers Handle Employee Expression

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Chicago Tribune

Partner Lauren Novak was quoted on how employers handle employees who wear masks or other attire expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Employers that ban those types of personal statements to avoid conflict face legal ramifications of restricting certain forms of expression, bad publicity, and low employee morale.

“This is definitely a challenge employers are going to face, if not now it is likely they will face it in future,” Lauren said, adding that employers should consider whether employees are wearing Black Lives Matter masks to protest racially discriminatory working conditions, which could be considered a protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

Lauren explained that a central concern for employers is whether allowing employees to wear Black Lives Matter apparel would provoke other employees to don All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, or other potentially divisive slogans. Employers have to decide whether they will take a position on those viewpoints.

“I think most employers would allow Black Lives Matter masks but they fear what other employees might wear to disturb the workplace,” Lauren said. “So by creating a neutral policy it eliminates people wearing masks that are clearly offensive.”

She added that for smaller employers not receiving public attention may consider a dress code prohibiting all forms of expression, but companies in the public eye may struggle to stay neutral if they are accused of failing to support their Black employees.

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