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Answers For The Workplace E-Memo

Is Patriotism in the Workplace Offensive?

During the last week of March, 2003, a Richmond Times-Dispatch article reported that Gary Burton, an employee at city hall in Richmond, Virginia, was told to take down an American flag he hung in his office because some were offended by it. Specifically, three other coworkers complained that Burton’s flag was a “de-facto support of the war” in Iraq, and they did not support the war.

I shook my head to make sure I was reading this right: A government employee was told to take down an American flag at a government office because it offended coworkers.

The question to consider is this: Where do we draw the line for workers to give up their free speech rights because someone is offended? Think about when you’ve been offended by something someone said, or by something in an office. If the first amendment to our constitution carried an "offensiveness" clause, then speech itself would have been eliminated long ago.

I strongly urge employers and managers to exercise caution when restricting expression in the workplace. This is, after all, the United States of America. An American flag is an appropriate symbol to display in this country.
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