Can my employer order me not to talk to someone?

UPDATED: Jan 9, 2012

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Can my employer order me not to talk to someone?

I was told, not in writing, not to talk to my ex-girlfriend. We had an apartment together and continued to talk through text messages. There are no policies against using the phone at work. I am a deputy sherrif. They are trying to fire me for insubordination. My girlfriend and I had gotten back together several times during this time period. She also works for the same department and is facing no consequences. Is this a civil rights violation?

Asked on January 9, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

No, it is not a civil rights violation--civil rights violations go to behavior against some protected class, such as against a person due to race.

An employer has the right to promulgate or put out policies and instructions for employees, whether they impact a single employee or the whole staff or anything in between. An employere may require employee A to not talk with employee B, if it believes that their doing so is disruptive and/or could lead to employer liability. Talking to your ex-girlfriend could be both or either--you and she could each have your own work disrupted; if there is any tension resulting from the communication(s), it could affect other workers; and if things go bad between you, and one of you accuses the other of stalking, harassment, violence, or sexual harassment, the employer could be liable if it did not take protective steps (like requiring you to not talk with her).

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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