This question is hypothetical. Say I go to a job interview.

During the interview the interviewer says you will be dealing with a lot of middle eastern clients.

I said, no problem. I can do this. I have dealt with many Muslims. Muslims are simple and straight forward people. Thats why all terrorists are muslims.

The interview immediately caught attention to my last statement and said: "We do not accept this kind of attitude in the organization. This interview is finish"

I recorded the whole interview session.

With this evidence, can I successfully sue the company for violating freedom of speech?

Thanks for your replies!

  • 1
    Where did it happen?
    – Greendrake
    Nov 2, 2020 at 5:20
  • 2
    The First Amendment refers to the US Constitution. The only tangentially relevant issue regarding jurisdiction would be which state, in particular whether this is an all-party wiretap jurisdiction, relevant to the possibility that the OP committed a crime by recording the interview.
    – user6726
    Nov 2, 2020 at 5:42
  • 1
    On what grounds? They didn't prevent you from exercising your 'freedom of speech'. On the contrary, you made easier for them to come to the conclusion as to whether you are a suitable candidate for the position they had in mind (dealing with a lot of middle eastern clients). Nov 2, 2020 at 7:06
  • 1
    Freedom of speech means that it's not illegal for you to say that. However it doesn't mean that anyone needs to listen, anyone needs to agree or that you are protected from any consequence other than governmental prosecution.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 2, 2020 at 23:42
  • 6
    The premise that all terrorists are Muslims is objectively false, so the employer could reject the candidate for having inadequate analytical skills.
    – phoog
    Nov 11, 2020 at 16:13

3 Answers 3


You don't explicitly say (this being an internationally visited and populated site), but based on your question, I will assume that you are in the US.

For the question you asked: Is the company the government? If not, then NO, you cannot successfully sue a company (or person for that matter) for violating the freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment to the US Constitution in any circumstances whatsoever. (Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine).

The US Constitution does not bind or restrict any private* individual or company, in any way. (Here "private" means "non-governmental; a "public(ly traded) company" is still considered a "private" entity in this context). The US Constitution exclusively deals with four things: How the US Federal Government operates, powers of the government, and restrictions of the government, and the definition of treason (which arguably is itself a restriction on the power of the government, by denying them the ability to define treason themselves).

The First Amendment itself is explicit about this restriction:

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech (emphasis mine).

Note that, while the First Amendment does not mention acts of the President, this is because the President's Constitutional powers are quite weak and limited; What powers the President does have and usually uses are granted to the office by laws passed by Congress, and so the restriction comes with them, as Congress cannot delegate to the President powers that Congress themselves do not possess).

As such, no company can be sued for violating the First Amendment (or any portion of the Constitution, really) because it does not apply to them.

Now, there may be laws passed by relevant legislatures, but these are dependent on your jurisdiction (e.g. state). However, as a general rule of thumb this would be legal. Turning down a candidate based on what they say in an interview is the point of having an interview; Turning down an candidate for saying something in an interview that could potentially leave the company liable for a lawsuit under the theory of vicarious liability is only good common sense.

  • 4
    You'll need to retire your pet peeve. It is not correct that you cannot sue a non-governmental entity for First Amendment violations "in any circumstances whatsoever." See, e.g., Brentwood Acad. v. Tennessee Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 298 (2001) ("The nominally private character of the Association is overborne by the pervasive entwinement of public institutions and public officials in its composition and workings, and there is no substantial reason to claim unfairness in applying constitutional standards to it.").
    – bdb484
    Nov 2, 2020 at 8:27
  • 1
    @bdb484: Having only skimmed your link (I don't have time for at the moment, but I'll get to it), it appears this is an exception that proves the rule. Also note, that in your example, the reason for the exception for this "nominally private" entity is "pervasive entwinement of public institutions and public officials in its composition and workings", i.e. "this is functionally a government entity". Or in other words, that would fail the leading if-statement.
    – sharur
    Nov 2, 2020 at 13:19
  • 4
    If you had stated a general rule, I'd definitely agree with you. But you've offered an absolute characterization of a general, which makes your rule statement wrong. In good news, it can easily be corrected.
    – bdb484
    Nov 4, 2020 at 7:16
  • 2
    @sharur "in any circumstances whatsoever" is indeed rather absolute.
    – phoog
    Nov 11, 2020 at 16:16
  • 2
    This answer makes a number of wrong assertions and arrives at a wrong conclusion. There is more here to unpack than I can do in a comment. But overall the answer seems unsalvageable.
    – grovkin
    Nov 13, 2020 at 7:09

Religion is a protected class. A "protected class" is a group of people against which employers cannot discriminate.

You have indicated that you have deeply-held beliefs about one religious group. Even if those beliefs are not in fact deeply held, hiring you would expose the employer to a potential law suit down the line. The question of whether or not you were discriminated against would not even be considered. The fact is that Congress has passed a law which effectively makes certain utterances unacceptable in a work place. So your perspective employer has the defense that they simply have followed the law.

Even if this defense were not available to your perspective employer, it would still be a fact that an employer could limit an employee's conduct in many ways in which a government cannot. There is no blanket protection of speech in the circumstances in which someone is paying you to act in a certain way.

  • But isn't he discriminating against my beliefs as a conservative/nationalist? I can sue him on the grounds of discrimination Nov 13, 2020 at 8:19
  • @user1034912 The counter argument will be: through your exercising of your right of freedom of speech (which is the core of your question here), they came to the conclusion that you were not suitable for the intended position. The Law of obligations was upheld by the company. Not being suitable for a position, is neither a discrimination nor an exercise of religious beliefs. Nov 13, 2020 at 9:32
  • @user1034912 discrimination is perfectly legal with a few exceptions. The protected classes are the exceptions. (1) The beliefs which you described are not protected. (2) Political affiliation, however, is protected in some states. And if you go around smearing conservatives by ascribing to them such believes during job interviews, then that too will be discriminatory and may expose a company to a law suit in those states if they hire you. (3) I am not sure what you mean by "nationalist" since this term has many uses and does not have an established legal meaning (at least not in the US).
    – grovkin
    Nov 13, 2020 at 12:40

Logically your statement doesn't follow. Plenty of simple and straight-forward people are not terrorists and plenty of terrorists are likely to be complicated. Especially if one digs into their motivation.

For example, Nelson Mandela was branded a terrorist and his organisation, the ANC, a terrorist organisation until well into the twenty-first century and long after apartheid had been crushed in South Africa.

Political speech is protected speech. But the situation you are in is not a political one, simply one where you are being judged on your suitability of a certain kind of work.

If say, you made this speech at a Republican Rally or for the Know-Nothing Party, then it's most likely it would be branded as hate speech - because that is what it is - given the argument I've indicated in the first two paragraphs. What action would be taken will depend upon the jurisdiction where you made that speech. Most likely, given your lack of prominence, and by this I mean a prominent public profile, you will be politely and firmly shown the door, as is what occurred in your alleged 'interview'.

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