UNFAIR PRACTICE ISSUES; PROTECTED ACTIVITIES – Speech
Single Topic for Decision 2605E
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300.15000 – Speech
Employee’s speech loses statutory protection if an objective observer would view it as an actual threat of physical harm. (p. 9.) Board considers nature of the employee’s outburst when evaluating whether an alleged threat of physical harm communicated in an e-mail, rather than in a face-to-face meeting with the employer, loses statutory protection. (p. 12.) Board adopts an objective test to determine whether an alleged threat is so “opprobrious” that it loses statutory protection. (p. 13.) Board must make fact-specific inquiry into all relevant circumstances to distinguish between intemperate remarks and actual threats of physical harm. (p. 14.) Board found that, in context, employee’s words were not objectively physical threats, where words were expressly metaphorical, and they were not accompanied by any physical conduct or other facts indicating that the words were a physical threat rather than a metaphor.