“Very well written, succinct yet very substantive....Provides a thorough analysis of free speech rights in the workplace, provides many legal examples, and suggests practical reforms to increase the rights of expression for employees, and thus makes a valuable contribution to the literature of free speech.”

January 2008. Full review.


“Citing numerous case studies, Barry concludes that civil liberties are significantly constrained in the American workplace, and in this inhospitable climate, employees understand clearly the threat of negative consequences for their speech....This is a thoughtful perspective on the ongoing controversy over employee rights.”

May 15, 2007. Requires subscription.

CHOICE (academic library reviews):

“An incisive road map to the treacherous terrain of expressive rights in employment settings. Written in a lucid and lively style, the book considers employee speech broadly, for both private and government workforces....Excels in outlining the foundations of free speech doctrine and employment law that converge to threaten employee expression in the workplace....Even informed readers will benefit from the comprehensiveness and coherence of the legal analysis, while novices will particularly appreciate the vivid examples drawn from actual cases and the accessible summaries of legal complexities....Highly recommended.”

November 2007. Requires subscription.


“Eye-opening for anyone who has a job. Big Brother isn’t just a figment of the imagination.”

September/October 2007. Full review.


“Barry...approaches the issue of workers’ rights as an activist as well as a scholar and management expert....While he acknowledges the importance of protecting the workplace from disruptive or hostile employee expression, he remains an unabashed proponent of freer speech for workers. Speechless is ultimately an argument for a transformation in American employment law, ideally one that abandons the principle of employment at will. It’s a tall order, especially since it currently confronts the twin hurdles of economic globalization and the increasingly intrusive security state, which has its own reasons for stifling expression. Barry makes a compelling case, however—at least for those who believe that free speech should be a core value of any democratic society worthy of the name.”

August 23, 2007. Full review.


“Speechless--at times surprisingly humorous and breezy--contains important arguments worthy of scholarly consideration and further sociological expansion.”

February 2008. Requires subscription.


“A well-reasoned and thorough argument.”

December 2007. Requires subscription.


“This book should prove a useful corrective to U.S. workers who believe they live in a free country....Barry provides a useful service in documenting that workers abandon nearly all their human rights when they enter under an employer's control.”

Winter 2008. Requires subscription.


“From office politics and political correctness to protection for expression and how and why free speech works, Speechless is a key acquisition not just for business holdings, but for libraries strong in American politics and civil rights issues.”

October 2007. Full review.


“Barry makes a compelling argument for expanding speech rights in the workplace.”

August 2007. Full review.

Other Praise

“Attention: No more loose talk about American ‘democracy’ until you've read Speechless! Bruce Barry exposes the shameful fact that most Americans are forced to check their civil liberties – and especially their freedom of speech – at the workplace door. I'm hoping this important book will inspire a new civil rights movement – this time for American workers of all collar colors.”

— Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (Metropolitan, 2005) and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (Metropolitan, 2001)

“Bruce Barry's Speechless provides a thoughtful analysis of the intersection of employment and free expression. Barry makes a compelling argument that the trend toward greater restrictions on employees' speech has implications that reach beyond the office walls and jeopardizes the well-being of our democracy.”

— Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union

“Americans think they have freedom of speech all the time. Bruce Barry's important new book tell them they are wrong. Barry explains how we lose our freedom of speech every day when we go to work. This is a must read for anyone who cares about free speech.”

— Lewis Maltby, President of the National Workrights Institute

“Bruce Barry has written a comprehensive and thoughtful overview of the sadly impoverished state of freedom of speech for workers, public and private, in American society. It is a must-read for those who care about the vitality of public discourse, the state of civil liberties, corporate compliance with law, or the intelligent management of a modern workforce.”

— Cynthia Estlund, author of Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy (Oxford, 2003); Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law at New York University

“A generation of Americans growing up in the age of networking, blogging, and instant messaging will be surprised to learn they park most of their rights to free speech, expression, and association at the door of their workplace. Professor Barry’s thorough analysis demonstrates how out of touch this is with our democratic values and suggests reforms that would allow us to be both good citizens and loyal, productive workers. He makes a good case for getting on with this long overdue task. A very good book.”

— Thomas A. Kochan, author of Restoring the American Dream, A Working Families' Agenda for America (MIT Press, 2005); George M. Bunker Professor of Management and Co-Director, MIT Workplace Center

“Every 23 minutes in America a worker is silenced through firing or punishment for exercising their right to demand fair treatment. By shining a spotlight on the erosion of free speech at work, Speechless issues a critical call to action for all who care about American democracy.”

— Mary Beth Maxwell, Executive Director of American Rights at Work

“Bruce Barry’s book is a new and important contribution to the literature on free speech. For over 200 years Americans have held onto the myth that unrestricted free expression is a right that should be and is respected and protected everywhere in our country. In this new book Bruce Barry has the audacity to bring into question that myth both theoretically and with a series of examples that challenge our ungrounded beliefs. Barry forces the reader to acknowledge the fact of the erosion of free expression. We are then challenged to examine the normative weight of our ideals and whether and how we can improve the protection of free expression throughout our society, even in the workplace.”

— Patricia Werhane, Ruffin Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Virginia; Wicklander Chair in Business Ethics and Director of the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics at DePaul University; author of Employment and Employee Rights (with Tara Radin; Blackwell, 2003) and Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making (Oxford, 1999)

“In Speechless, Bruce Barry documents in telling detail how workplace strictures on free expression – enforced sometimes by written contract, sometimes by corporate policy and sometimes by assumed executive power – can adversely affect morale, productivity and profit. His thesis is not a prayer for business venues to become disruptive debating societies, but rather is a warning that the tendency toward management dictatorship can create a toxic environment that sucks energy and support from worker initiative and from company goals. He argues persuasively that too often court rulings have helped enforce a management muzzle to a degree that the law has permitted the evolution of a corporate ethos that offends the political and cultural commitment to free speech in a democratic society.”

— John Seigenthaler, founding editorial director of USA TODAY, past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center.

“This lucidly written and up-tempo read by a distinguished workplace management expert is a clarion call for addressing the erosion of free speech in America. Richly studded with poignant law cases and everyday workplace vignettes, Speechless tours us critically through traditional employment-at-will doctrine and modern management measures to reveal their combined and ironic impact on the decline of expressive rights in and around an increasingly team-based, participatory, but employer-controlled, workplace community. This unintended and ironic result of employment-at-will and modern management has ramifications far beyond the workplace: the decline of worker expression spills over into civil society, as the long arm of the employer limits the worker qua citizen's participation in civil society, the same civil society that Tocqueville argued sustains a vibrant and deliberative democracy in America. It is this clash and connection between legal and market principles, on the one hand, and civil society and democracy, on the other, that makes Speechless an outstanding, pioneering, fresh, and thorough analysis of the subtle erosion of American expressive rights. Speechless concludes with a set of bold and sensible steps that legislatures, courts, managers, and workers can take to refashion workplace communities for putting America back on the track toward deliberative democracy.”

— Daniel B. Cornfield, Editor of Work and Occupations
Book cover of Speechless - The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace
The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace
Berrett–Koehler, 2007
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Copyright © 2007 Bruce Barry
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