Court Upholds Employee's Dismissal For Confederate Flag Display

June 4, 2003 ( - The dismissal of an employee for displaying the Confederate battle flag at work is not a violation of the First Amendment and has been upheld.

The US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of a lower court, determined the private employer in this case was within its legal rights to fire Matthew Dixon for violating a company antiharassment policy.   In doing so, the court further determined the action was also within the legal bounds of a South Carolina statute that prohibits private employers from firing employees for expressing political opinions or exercising constitutional rights, according to a New York Times report.

The appellate court noted that “Dixon’s free speech claim raises First Amendment issues that are of monumental importance” and “presents this court with a difficult question as to where the outer limit of an individual’s right to political expression might lie,” the court nonetheless held that Dixon had no legal right to express to his views at work.

Battle Hymn

>Dixon, a white mechanic at the Coburn Dairy in Charleston, South Carolina, placed two Confederate flag stickers on the toolbox he took to work in 2000. The action, Dixon claims, was an expression of his views in the public debate then raging on whether to remove the flag from the state’s capitol building.

>A black co-worker objected to the stickers, saying they were racially offensive and violated their employer’s antiharassment policy. Dixon declined to remove the stickers and refused the dairy’s offer to buy him a new toolbox if he kept the one with the stickers on it at home. The dairy then fired him for violating the antiharassment policy.

Dixon sued, claiming a violation of his First Amendment rights.   A federal district court judge in Charleston dismissed the case.