You Have the Right to Keep Silent If You Want to Remain Employed

One of the most effective weapons in the corporate employer’s fuck you arsenal is the employment at will clause. It’s the trump card that stacks the deck against you regardless of the winning hand you think you’re holding, relegating you instead to the chump pile of players who stayed in the game one bet too long.

Your legal rights? Good fucking luck. Under the doctrine of employment at will, your boss can fire your ass for any reason he sees fit or for essentially no reason at all. From the moment your work day begins your rights not only become secondary to your employer, but are mostly tossed onto the you should feel lucky just to have a job in the first place so shut up and do as you’re told dung heap. Though there’s a virtual parade of ambulance-chasing lawyers who are more than willing to take your money just to end up telling you that you are basically screwed anyway, the actual list of illegal sins your boss can be successfully slapped with is smaller than an ant’s taint on a cold day. Besides, many employers now require potential candidates to sign a waiver stating that the employee won’t sue them on the off chance they do actually have a legitimate case, but will instead settle the case through an independent arbitrator – hand-picked by the company, of course.

If you have a problem with any of this, take it up with the U.S. Constitution. Though the First Amendment guarantees free speech to all citizens, that freedom is restricted solely to criticisms of the government or its officials. You can call the president a greasy-balled colonboy to your heart’s content without having to worry about mysteriously disappearing in the middle of the night, but the minute you refer to your boss as an asshole because, well, he is, you can find yourself making new friends in the unemployment line and there isn’t a goddamned thing you can do about it. That’s because the Constitution does not apply to corporations or private businesses. Your boss can, quite literally and figuratively, tell you to take your free speech and find a new home for it up your rectum.

Try posting anything factually negative online about your place of employment and see how long before one of your “friends” forwards your observation to the powers that be. Then wait and see how long it takes you to show up for your last shift. If the government wants to tap your phone or read your emails, it usually requires a court order or evidence that you are engaging in illegal activity. Not so for your boss. Your employer can videotape your every move, monitor your emails, listen to your telephone calls and peruse your social media websites and decide whether to retain you based on what activities of yours he does or doesn’t approve of. No warrant required.

But the privacy invasion doesn’t end there. Your rights are stripped from you at the very outset of the job interview process. Pre-employment screenings are now usually the normal prerequisite before any employment offer is made, and many of these investigations can and do occur without the applicants’ knowledge or permission. If you’ve ever been arrested you probably won’t get the job, whether you were convicted of any crime or not. If your credit history has any significant dings it will most likely be held against you, regardless of whether the job you’re applying for involves handling money. Your driving record is up for grabs, as is your Twitter account. And this doesn’t even include drug screening, which recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control have proven are inaccurate 37 percent of the time or bullshit psychological tests which are so transparent that even the most theft-oriented psychotic can pass. Prospective employers aren’t under any legal obligation to inform you why your application was rejected, and most will lie anyway if asked. Without even knowing it, many of you have undoubtedly been victims of being denied employment based on information unearthed in a background check you never authorized.

Many companies are now also demanding around-the-clock servitude even when their employees aren’t punched in. It’s no longer uncommon for employers in the service sector to remind their hires that they are ambassadors for the company even when they’re out and about on their own time. So if prudish Mrs. Jones happens to see you on your day off getting your drink on in a neighboring watering hole to her dissatisfaction and complains about it to your employer, you stand the chance of getting canned for essentially no more than living your life the way you see fit. Other companies have placed similar lifestyle bans on the people they hire, reserving the right to terminate people for things such as smoking, being overweight, maintaining certain political affiliations or engaging in hobbies deemed too risky such as motorcycling or skiing. So much for that freedom thing.

Like any other abusive relationship, businesses trample the human rights of their employees because they can get away with it. Though the temptation is perpetually there for most of us to tell our bosses to take long walks off short piers, the fear of long-term unemployment keeps most of us relegated to playing the role of enablers so we can continue putting food on our tables. How is it that in a country where hundreds of thousands of people have died to protect our liberty and freedoms from foreign intrusion that we then turn around and willfully surrender those very things every time we go to work? There’s a fine line between working for a living and living just to work, and it’s unfortunately getting blurrier every time I clock in anymore.

Terry Everton is a cartoonist and “wage slave.” Read other articles by Terry, or visit Terry's website.