Stopping the Presses: Private Universities and Gag Orders on Media Interviews

By Frank LoMonte and Linda Riedemann Norbut

Abstract

The right of employees to speak freely to journalists about workplace matters is well recognized as a constitutional principle in the public sector. Less well recognized is the ability of private-sector employees, including those at private colleges and universities, to invoke the protection of the National Labor Relations Act to resist unduly broad “gag orders” that inhibit their ability to share information with the media. Recent precedent from the National Labor Relations Board fortifies that right—but it is under attack by the NLRB’s Trump-appointed majority and staff, as once-settled worker-rights principles are reexamined. This article looks at the enforceability of media “gag orders” in the private university setting and offers some grounds for arguing that free-speech protections should extend to employees on private campuses.

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