Can my employer order me not to talk to someone?

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 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).


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