Do I have to wear a pink ribbon?

Can employees be forced to show support for breast cancer by mandating that the pink ribbon be worn throughout the month of October? I’m curious as to my rights, good cause or not!

Ann Kiernan replies:

There is nothing illegal about management encouraging employees to support charities. United Way campaigns, for instance, are a long-standing tradition at many companies. While a private employer could mandate wearing a pink ribbon, in my opinion employee participation should be voluntary. Realistically, there could be some pressure to participate, though. Even if you would not be fired because you didn’t wear a pink ribbon, some people might think “Charlie is not a team player.” Or “Charlie doesn’t care about anybody but himself.”

However, if you work for a public employer, I think that there is an argument that compelling you to support a cause you did not believe in violates your First Amendment Rights. As the U.S. Supreme Court recently noted: “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates [a] cardinal constitutional command”. Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, 585 US __ , 138 S. Ct. 2448, (2018)

Posted 08-13-2018

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.