“Should We Respect A Law No One Follows?” is the deliberately inflammatory question titling a blog post by Matt Kaiser on Above The Law blog today.
He introduces the topic of respecting laws that are meant to be broken with a few personal stories, among them:
“At some point, I started running an experiment to see how long it would take for a middle-aged white guy in a Prius with a suspended license to get pulled over.
It took about 20 months.
I was given a warning. Which I am grateful for.
Speeding is an odd offense. Under a certain point, no one thinks that speeding is morally problematic. And no one thinks that you should actually drive exactly the speed limit—going 56 in a 55 is illegal, sure, but it isn’t really illegal.”
After other anecdotal evidence, from bogus traffic tickets, speed cameras, or guys being prosecuted for killing fish facing 20-year sentences, the post concludes, “Virtually no one follows the law to its letter. No one respects the law. Do we promote it by slamming the unlucky few?”
“Or, rather, would it be better—if we worry about respect for the law—to write laws that are actually enforced as written?”
It’s easy to sucked into Kaiser’s argument. Anybody who has ever been ticketed for jaywalking, or actually given a $50 fine for throwing out “household trash” in a public street garbage bin, understands the predicament of enforcing laws that don’t really describe illicit behavior.
There are some stranger laws, too, that will rarely be enforced but remain on the books. For example, in Woburn, Massachusetts, it’s illegal to drink alcohol while standing up. Or, in West Lafayette, Ohio, it’s illegal to keep ducks as pets (an Iraq War vet was actually fined for it once).
If you care to look, there are likely dozens of laws that are outdated in your local precinct.
Nevertheless, respect for the law should not be a personal decision, it’s a criminal one—obey the rules or submit to the consequences. What exactly is Matt Kaiser arguing here? (Actually, Kaiser is most peeved about speed cameras, which he calls “a moral abomination that is offensive to the idea of a free society,” but we digress.)
Matt Kaiser, ATL author, writes about white-collar crime from a defense-attorney point-of-view. He has represented stockbrokers, tax preparers, doctors, drug dealers, and political appointees in federal investigations and indicted cases, according to his ATL bio.
Although you may or may not agree with Kaiser’s take on the law, he probably sounds like a few—if not many—of your peers.
Law firm associates love to talk about controversial cases and news items. The more inflammatory the debate, the better.
Whether it’s the current U.S. Presidential candidates, the newest judge appointments, or discussions about whether or not that Trump supporter who suction-cupped his way up Trump tower yesterday should be prosecuted, these topics are provocative and also occupying. Everybody has an opinion.
So what happens when political talk interrupts workflow or escalates to bad behavior? It may surprise you to know that there’s a host of legal concerns surrounding barring political talk or disciplining employees for engaging in political behavior in the office.
To avoid these legal landmines, take C4CM’s webinar, “Politics in the Workplace: How to Legally Manage Politically Charged Activity at Work,” on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern. In it you will learn what employers can do to manage political activity in the workplace, including:
- What employers can do to manage political discussions and fundraising
- How to address political discussions in the workplace under federal and state laws
- What employers should never do when it comes to political activities or chatter
- How the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies
- How the new SCOTUS ruling Heffernan vs. City of Paterson impacts employers
- When an employee’s political discussion is protected by the First Amendment
By the end of the information-packed session, you will know more about:
- When discipline for political-related behavior is appropriate and legal
- What defines political harassment in the workplace
- What constitutes business harm from employee’s political speech
- How to handle controversial or political social media posts by an employee
- How to handle office sponsored political functions supported by management
- Dress code do’s and don’ts as they apply to political speech
It’s ok to ask the question. But, as a law firm manager, you should know the liability issues that come along with answering.