Association questions and answers on speech in the workplace
Statement of the ALA Code of Ethics
"Since libraries have a special responsibility to protect intellectual freedom and freedom of expression,
do libraries have a special responsibility to be workplaces that tolerate employee expression more than
other professional settings?
Yes. Libraries play a special role in ensuring the free flow of information in a democratic society.
Librarians and library workers are often called on to fight censorship and resist efforts to restrict
individuals from receiving information and expressing ideas. If librarians and library workers are denied
the ability to speak on work related matters, what does this say about our own commitment to free speech?
We need to demonstrate our commitment to free speech by encouraging it in the workplace. Libraries are
encouraged to adopt ALA policy B.9.21 on Workplace Speech. This does not provide full legal protection
for employees but does help promote free speech in the workplace."
~ ~ ~
"Is there an ethical obligation to raise questions and initiate change about policies I believe to
be detrimental to the public interest or to the profession?
The first tenet of the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association begins
"we provide the highest level of service to all library users..." In these and other situations,
you should and probably will feel an ethical obligation as a professional to speak out and make your
library values known. You will have to use your professional judgment as to when and how to do so,
and you must be prepared to accept the consequences.
~ ~ ~
"What about whistle blowing?
According to Black's Law Dictionary, whistle blowing refers to an employee who reports illegal or
wrongful activities of an employer or fellow employees. There are federal and state statutes to protect
employees from retaliation for disclosing certain kinds of employer misconduct, like fraud, abuse, waste,
or the violation of a law, rule, or regulation."
~ ~ ~
"What about questions of library policy? Do I have free speech rights to speak on internal library matters?
Since the relationship between employee and employer is a contractual one, employee speech is governed
by the employment contract, not the First Amendment. The speech environment in a library as a workplace
may vary according to the organizational hierarchy and an employee's place in it, the organizational
culture, and the personalities that make up that culture."
OSU Equity & Inclusion retaliation policy
"An individual may file a complaint alleging retaliation. Individuals are protected from retaliation
for a variety of activities undertaken in good faith such as filing complaints, cooperating with
investigations, or engaging in a wide range of speech or whistle-blowing activities. Please contact
the Office of Equity and Inclusion with questions about whether particular activities are protected.
Additionally, no person shall retaliate against an individual for accessing the services of the University
Ombuds Office. This is not intended to create individual or group rights, whether contractual or
otherwise, that do not exist under existing law."
"What bullying is not is conflict. It's not conflict between 2 equally powered parties so there's no sense
having the conflict resolution types come on in and claim to be bullying experts.
They can just take their
mediation games and leave town because mediation doesn't work. The person is already compromised.
psychological violence, bullying is violence and it needs a different set of tools to stop it
The solutions have
to involve making a person healthy because it's the health harm that drives the whole movement ... A strong
emotional impact but stress related physical complications are also important: cardiovascular compromises from
hypertension all the way through heart attack and then there are the gastrointestinal problems. This is a health
hazard ... Bullying is a workplace health hazard."
"Your tormentor's goal is opposed to yours and it has absolutely nothing to do with work.
It's all about her
or his personal agenda, a day filled with game-playing if you will. Their goal is to disrupt, distort and sabotage
you and to inflict ... social misery ... Now HR discounts this inherent violence in the workplace as a "personality
conflict" or "a clash in styles." That's why they tell you to go work it out among yourselves - because they
don't want to own up to any organizational responsibility for putting you in harms way."
Let me distinguish incivility and disrespect from bullying. First of all I put workplace bullying in the context
of workplace violence ... much more akin to domestic violence, and therefore abuse. So workplace bullying is abuse
where the abuser is on the payroll. But the 2 most popular labels for negative behavior that American employers are willing to tolerate seem to be
incivility and disrespect ...
Incivility and disrespect are still much less stressful than even the most minor form
of bullying because bullying is abusive conduct and it is career-destroying, it is so destructive to the family, and
clearly is the major compromising agent for the employee's health which we have documented extensively."
"American employers love to use the terms incivility and disrespect when they are really trying to acknowledge that
bullying happens there but it's too scary to say that bullying happens so they use the nicer euphemisms of incivility
and disrespect. Now that creates a problem for any organization that you're not going to get the correct solution if
you don't correctly identify the problem. So if your definition of the problem is milquetoast and deliberately
labeled so as to be inoffensive you're going to miss the boat. You're never going to address workplace bullying
unless you call it either bullying or some form of violence. Those are the problems with those 2 terms. If on the
other hand, a policy regarding disrespectful behavior that has teeth in it in which the definition actually meets
the criteria for workplace bullying that is health harming and disruptive and work interfering, then they're on the
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Last updated May, 2015.