So you like to listen to Rush Limbaugh. Or Randi Rhodes—it doesn’t matter. But your favorite politically-motivated loudmouth’s show is on only during your work shift. Listening to the radio while working doesn’t have any adverse effect on your job performance. You get a small portable radio and a set of headphones so you can listen while you work. Since you use headphones, your listening habits have no effect on any other employees. No one can even tell what you’re listening to.
Nevertheless, one day your headphones are slightly too loud, or you try listening without them. Your employer doesn’t agree with the opinions espoused by your favorite commentator. So a company memo comes out that all radios are forbidden inside the workplace. They cause distraction and reduce job performance. You know this is false, and that it’s only your employer being a jerk because he/she/it can. But, the building belongs to the employer, so what he/she/it says goes.
So you start going out to your car during breaks and lunch. It stinks, but you can at least catch a little of the show that way. One day you’re sitting in your car eating lunch, listening to your favorite commentator. Your boss happens to walk by and recognizes the voice of Rush Limbaugh or Randi Rhodes coming from your car.
A new company memo circulates. Listening to your own radio inside your own car during breaks and lunch is now prohibited. Your car is parked on company property, therefore you either obey the rules or find a new job.
It isn’t that easy, and everyone knows it. You’ve held this job for several years, you’ve worked your way up through merit and cost-of-living raises. If you quit now, any other job you found would pay much less than your current rate—if you could even find any other job quickly. You would give up accumulated vacation time and quite likely many other benefits.
So…should your boss even be allowed to prohibit you from listening to your own radio in your own car during breaks, simply because it happens to be parked on so-called “company property?”
Would you fight this? Ignore it and take your chances? Or just use modern technology to record the show at home so you can listen to it later—if you have the time.
It’s a ridiculous hypothetical possibility anyway, isn’t it? No employer would ever try to prohibit their employees from listening to their own radio in their own car. Forget I even suggested it.
A new scenario.
You consider yourself a Christian. You decide to use your break and lunch time to read your Bible. You do not proselytize or evangelize during your breaks. You simply sit quietly in the break room and read your Bible for a few minutes. It has no adverse effect on your job. It does not disrupt the workplace.
Your employer disagrees with your religious viewpoint. Out comes a company memo that no religious materials are allowed inside the building. You’re on the clock and inside the workplace, so what your employer says is the rule. You reluctantly obey.
So you start going outside to sit in your car and read your Bible during breaks and lunch. Such behavior has no adverse effect on your job performance, and no other employees even notice your activity. You simply sit quietly and read your Bible when you are authorized to be on a break or at lunch.
One day your employer is walking through the parking lot and passes your car. He/she/it sees your Bible lying on your dashboard.
A new company memo comes out. Religious materials are now prohibited inside your own car as long as it’s parked on so-called “company property.” In addition, random searches will be instituted to ensure that no one breaks this rule. If your car is found to contain any religious reading material, you can be terminated.
So you’ve been notified of your new company policy. Do you obey it? Do you try to find a place in your car where it won’t be easily found during a cursory search? Or do you resign yourself to reading your Bible only when you’re not on “company time?”
Should your employer even be allowed to place such restrictions on you? Does the mere fact of your personal vehicle being temporarily parked on “company property” grant your employer the ability to temporarily abrogate your freedom of religion?
It’s a ridiculous hypothetical possibility anyway, isn’t it? What kind of employer would try to stop their employees from reading their Bible, or their Qu’ran, or catching up on their Book of Shadows during breaks and lunch, while sitting in their own car bothering no one? It’s silly of me even to suggest such a thing.
One last scenario.
The state you live in has a “shall issue” concealed handgun law. You pay the fees. You attend the class. You submit to multiple background checks and turn in two sets of fingerprints. You jump through all the hoops and your home state finally says it’s okay for you to walk around with a handgun concealed on your person. Just make sure no one ever sees it.
You agonize over which handgun will be best for you. You pore over catalogs, magazines and websites trying to determine the best balance between how easy it will be to conceal a given firearm and how potent its caliber is reputed to be.
You buy a gun. You also buy an expensive holster. A new belt. Everything to make sure your handgun stays both secure and concealed when you are carrying it.
Your employer has already made clear that company policy allows no firearms on the premises. It’s his/her/its property, and you have no intention of disobeying this rule. Your shiny new license and your shiny new gun are too precious to risk over such a simple rule.
You buy a car safe. It provides a relatively secure place to store your handgun while you are inside your workplace. Someone breaking into your car during your work shift is very unlikely, and even if they did, they would have to spend too much time finding your car safe, and then even much more time breaking it open or removing it, and you decide your gun is safe while it is not on your person. So you are still defenseless while you are inside the building, but attempted murder has never happened there before, and you know where the exits are. You decide it’s a reasonable compromise.
You make one small mistake. Your employer is walking through the parking lot and passes your car. He happens to notice the latest issue of Concealed Carry Magazine, or Guns & Ammo, or Guns Magazine lying on your dashboard.
A new memo comes out reminding everyone of company policy. In addition, firearms are not allowed to be secured inside your private vehicle as long as it happens to be parked on “company property.” Furthermore, random searches will be instituted to ensure that no one is keeping a firearm in their car when parked on “company property.”
Unlike our first two scenarios, there is no way to catch up on personal defense later. If a disgruntled employee arrives and begins killing people, you can’t wait until you get home to defend yourself. Your employer has just rendered you impotent against a dedicated killer.
No one knew you carried a gun. Your carrying a gun did not reduce anyone’s job performance or disrupt the workplace. It simply gave you the possibility of evening the odds if you—or even your fellow employees—are violently attacked.
Your employer has now effectively terminated your ability to defend yourself, not only at the workplace, but when you stop at a darkened convenience store for gas in the morning, or when you stop at Wal-Mart on the way home to pick up a few groceries, or wherever else you happen to go or be before or after work.
Should your employer even have the ability to render you defenseless? You know that good jobs are hard to find and quitting your job would make it difficult, if not impossible, to provide for your family.
Do you stand by your principles, take a different lower-paying job that has no such proscription, and make it hard on your family while “the market sorts it out?” Can you even find a job that has no such proscription?
So let’s ask again: should your employer even have the ability to render you defenseless no matter where you are? Should he/she/it be allowed to turn you into a weekend carrier? After all, you work all week long, so the only time you can carry is on weekends. And most weekends you don’t even leave home.
Except to go to church. But that’s another story.
Few of us can imagine a circumstance in which an employer would try to stop his/her/its employees from listening to their own radio in their own car, or stop employees from reading their choice of religious material in their own car, during times when employees are authorized to be on a break or at lunch.
Yet we have come not only to expect, but accept an employer who stops employees from providing for their own means of protection both on and off “company property.” Both on and off, because if you can’t secure it in your car during your work shift, you can’t take it with you anywhere.
Why is that?