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Line Can Get Blurry Between Free Speech, Work Social Media Policy

In response to recent controversies, ESPN has released a new employee social media policy that tightens the restrictions on what employees can publicly say.

Many companies here in Arizona have mandated social media guidelines for employees to follow, but the line between freedom of speech and satisfying an employer’s social media policy can sometimes get blurred.

According to John Balitis, an attorney and director at Fennemore Craig, a law firm in Phoenix, there is no one-size-fits-all social media policy for the workplace.

“Different rules apply in the private and the public sector. In the private sector, workers don’t have any First Amendment rights or rights to freedom of expression" Balitis said. "That only applies if you’re working for the government.”

ESPN’s new policy comes at an interesting time, as Twitter just extended its character limit, allowing more expressive viewpoints.

Balitis said companies should be careful not to violate federal anti-discrimination laws when crafting their social media policies. 

“Sometimes what workers want to express in terms of political or social views, you find them bleeding into areas that you can’t retaliate against someone for talking about," he said.

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Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.