MAY WE SPEAK FREELY? NOT ALWAYS IN THE WORKPLACE!
Author to Address State of Free Expression Sept. 27 at MTSU
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Sept. 21, 2007
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Beverly Keel, 615-898-5150 or email@example.com
(MURFREESBORO)—Discussing the latest political brouhaha during your coffee break can get you into more than a debate with a co-worker; it can get you into the unemployment line.
Professor and author Dr. Bruce Barry will address the topic on Thursday, Sept. 27, when he delivers the lecture, “Will Work Leave You Speechless? The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace,” in the Keathley University Center Theater on the MTSU campus. The 9:45 a.m. event is free and open to the public.
The event is co-sponsored by the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies and MTSU’s American Democracy Project.
In his new book, “Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace,” Barry, a professor of management and sociology at Vanderbilt University, examines the history of free expression in the workplace, how and why Americans have come to take free speech for granted and how employers can legally punish employees for speaking their minds.
As Barry reveals in his book, employers often can legally fire workers whose speech makes them uncomfortable, even if the content has nothing to do with their jobs. He describes situations such as the factory worker who was fired because her boss disagreed with her political bumper sticker and the stockbroker who felt pressure to resign from an employer who disapproved of his off-hours political advocacy.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is our rights to free speech, which we think of as very broad, are actually quite limited, especially in the workplace,” Barry said. “Constitutional law and employment law conspire, if you will, to really limit those rights and give employers very broad discretion on how they choose to regulate or even punish employee speech.
“There are all kinds of complications and exceptions to it. That is, there’s not one answer to the question, ‘Is there free speech in the American workplace?’ It depends on where you work, what kind of speech and where you live. The laws vary from state to state.”
Barry added that employers’ power to silence their workers’ speech has a chilling effect on society. “This is a big problem,” he said. “It encourages people to tune out participation in the community and civic engagements and democracy for fear of losing their jobs.”
Barry teaches courses on power and influence in organizations, business and society, negotiation, and the sociology of media and technology. His research on behavior at work, including power, conflict, justice, and negotiation, has appeared in many scholarly journals and volumes. He also writes about business ethics, workplace rights, and public policy issues at the intersection of business and society. He is co-author of three books on negotiation that are used in courses at universities worldwide.
A past president of the International Association for Conflict Management and a past chair of the Conflict Management Division of the Academy of Management, Barry also is a member of the editorial boards of the journals “Business Ethics Quarterly,” “Work and Occupations,” and “Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.”
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in organizational behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has also taught at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill and has been a visiting scholar at the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Melbourne in Australia.
Barry lives in Nashville, where he is president of the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and a contributing writer and blogger for the “Nashville Scene.”
For more information about the lecture, please call 615-898-5150 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN BRIEF: Dr. Bruce Barry, author and professor of management and sociology at Vanderbilt University, will present a lecture, “Will Work Leave You Speechless? The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace,” on Thursday, Sept. 27, in the Keathley University Center Theater on the MTSU campus. The 9:45 a.m. event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies and MTSU’s American Democracy Project. For more information about the lecture, please call 615-898-5150 or e-mail email@example.com.
For MTSU news and information, visit www.mtsunews.com.
NOTE: Media needing a color headshot of Dr. Barry, or a color image of the “Speechless” book cover, should contact Gina E. Fann in the Office of News and Public Affairs via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 615-898-5385.