During election season, political discussions can get extremely heated. In today’s political climate, while expressing your political views at a family dinner may not have legal consequences, things may be a little different in the workplace.
Can I talk about politics at work? Can employers fire me for expressing certain political views? Are my political affiliations a protected category under employment law?
These are some of the most common questions employees have regarding political affiliations in the workplace. In short, the answer depends on where you live. While federal laws don’t prohibit political discrimination at work, some state laws do. And in California, employees are protected from discrimination based on political activities or affiliations.
First Amendment and the Freedom of Speech
It’s true, your freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment of the constitution. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression by allowing individuals to speak freely.
However, some people mistakenly believe that their freedom of speech extends to the workplace – that’s not necessarily the case.
The protection of freedom of speech applies to the government’s suppression of speech and does not apply to private employers. That means, unless you work for the government, the first amendment does not limit your employer. Even for employees working for the government, there are still limits to the First Amendment rights in the workplace.
In terms of employment discrimination or workplace harassment, your political views or affiliations does not fall under a protected category.
In this case, federal law gives little protection to protect employees from being disciplined or fired for their political views or activities However, California Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102 extends certain employment rights to California employees.
Employee Rights Under California Labor Code
California Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102 prohibits employers from implementing policies, rules, or regulations that forbid or prevent employees from participating or engaging in politics. California employers cannot prohibit employees from running for public office. Employers also cannot control or direct political affiliations or activities of employees.
Further, employers cannot use the threat of termination of employment or job loss in an attempt to influence or coerce employees from participating or refraining from engaging in political activity.
For example, Ben’s supervisor, Mike, calls him into his office to discuss the upcoming presidential election. Mike tells Ben that he must vote for candidate A or else he may get demoted or even fired. Ben refuses and tells Mike that he would rather vote for candidate B. The next day, Mike tells Ben that he is being terminated by the company.
In this example, Ben’s supervisor Mike not only threaten demotion and termination of employment in order to influence Ben’s voting decision, but he eventually terminated his employment. Ben’s employments rights have been violated and he should consider speaking to an experienced wrongful termination attorney about his potential case.
Generally speaking, California law prohibits employers from taking action against employees for their political activities that don’t directly affect their job performance. However, if their actions or expression of political views affect their job performance or that of their colleagues, then the employer may be justified in taking action.
Consult with a Discrimination Lawyer Today
If you believe you’re a victim of political affiliation discrimination or workplace retaliation, don’t hesitate to contact our office today. We are confident that our experienced employment attorneys can obtain the maximum compensation for your case and offer a “no win, no fee” guarantee. Contact Mesriani Law Group today for your free legal consultation.