Talking at Work

Earlier this year (2015), one of our contract attorneys was working on a project where management set forth a host of rules which included the instruction that there was to be no talking at work, regardless of whether or not the discussion was work-related. This, understandably, contributed to a climate of fear in the workplace. Some of the foreign-language contract attorneys on this project, who felt that they might have more leverage than others, approached management about this. Prior to the meeting with management, the attorneys agreed to leave the job if management was not amenable to doing away with the rule. During the meeting, management agreed that the contract attorneys would be allowed to talk at work within reasonable limits, but subsequent emails to the entire group of contract attorneys reminded them of the rules still included the restriction on talking while at work.


Shortly after these incidents, the UCA went public and appeared in the press, such as the Wall Street Journal. In one WSJ article, the restriction on talking was specifically called out by one of our members. Since this time, management at this agency has not repeated its request that workers not talk to one another while at work. It seems incredibly likely that this is a result of the concerted effort by the assertive contract attorneys at this agency combined with the public knowledge that there are attorneys organizing for better workplace conditions. Together, we can recapture our dignity and reduce the sense of fear we all face from time to time as temporary contract attorneys.

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