Can a employer question you about a conversation that you have on your lunch hour?

UPDATED: Apr 2, 2012

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Can a employer question you about a conversation that you have on your lunch hour?

Asked on April 2, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, yes--your employer may ask you about any conversation you had, at any time (e.g. at lunch, after hours, on weekened) and could--if you lack an employment contract, and hence are an employee at will--terminate you either for not answering or if the employer does not like your answer.

There are a few limited exceptions: you can't be terminated for having a conversation about union activity or organizing; you should not be fired for discussing certain protected claims, like for overtime or about being discriminated against; if you work for the government, you have broader free speech rights. However, those exceptions  aside, you are not protected at work in what you say or who you say it to, so, for example, if you criticize a supervisor or manager to co-workers, or bad mouth the company to outsiders or  potential customers/clients, you could be terminated.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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