Goodyear Tire is under fire this week for listing acceptable and unacceptable symbols or clothing in the workplace. President Trump has spoken out against the inclusion of MAGA hats as "unacceptable" and called for a boycott. I do not agree. I think it would be appropriate to ban political endorsements or symbols in a company, but there is legitimate concern about what is considered "acceptable". The touchstone for protecting freedom of expression is content neutrality, and Goodyear appears to be enforcing a point of view preference. The question is whether, as a private company, it is obliged to be neutral.
The story went viral after a Goodyear employee shared a slide from a recent corporate diversity training course at a facility in Topeka, Canada that displayed two categories: Acceptable and Unacceptable. Acceptable items included Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride (LGBT). Unacceptable elements included Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, MAGA, and politically linked slogans or materials.
The MAGA reference sparked President Trump, who declared, "Don't buy GOODYEAR TIRES. They announced a ban on MAGA hats." Get Better Tires For Far Less "(This is what the radical left Democrats are doing. Two can play the same game, and we must start playing it now!)."
While the company emphasized that the list came from a diversity training course, it did not deny the boundary between these groups and causes. The company issued a statement that:
“Goodyear is committed to an inclusive and respectful workplace where all of our employees can do their best in a team spirit. As part of this commitment, we allow our employees to express their support regarding racial injustice and other equity issues, but encourage them not to use oral or otherwise in the workplace to support political campaigns for candidates, political parties or others Similar forms of advocacy that do not fall within the scope of equity issues. "
I understand the policy of excluding "forms of advocacy," and companies have the right to impose restrictions, an issue we discussed in the NFL kneeling controversy. However, the list does not seem to follow the necessary bright line rule to avoid distortion from occurring.
The inclusion of Black Lives Matter but not Blue Lives Matter raises the most obvious concern about the preference for political considerations. There are some people who support the Black Lives Matter appeal but do not support the organization. Others support both the Black Lives Matter and the Blue Lives Matter. I understand many people's views that we need to focus on BLM in order to address issues of racial justice in our system. But it's a point of view preference.
In my opinion, Goodyear has the right to limit the views expressed in its branches. For example, a clothing store may want to represent environmental concerns. There is an obvious risk of boycott and backlash with such an approach, but I don't believe there is a legal requirement to apply such rules evenly in a private sphere. Even with state property as not public Forum, content-based language restrictions just has to be sensible and neutral. Perry Educ. Ass & # 39; n versus Perry Local Educators & # 39; Ass & # 39; n, 460, US 37, 46 (1983). In 1972 the Supreme Court ruled in Grayned v City of Rockford that in determining the time, place and behavior restrictions on language, “the crucial question is whether the language is in principle incompatible with the normal activity of a given place at a certain time. "
In this dispute, Goodyear allows some advocacy while excluding other forms of advocacy. However, this is a private space (albeit open to the public). The first change concerns government restrictions on freedom of expression. Hence, Goodyear is likely to have economic and political, rather than legal, ramifications for its policies. Goodyear shares reportedly fell six percent after Trump called for a boycott.