Can Politics Get You Fired?

- - Nelson Lewis

I’ve talked before about the tricky topic of politics at the workplace.  But in such politically polarizing times, it’s important not to forget.  In liberal workplaces, conservatives feel isolated and won’t reveal their political views for fear of judgement.  We live in a free country, and that’s great, but having the wrong political viewpoint could get you fired.  Is this legal?  Yes and no.  Unless you work for the government, you do not have the right to free speech at work.  Here are some instances, however, where your political views and involvement could have legal protection:

Concerted activity: Employers can prohibit political discussions and campaigning at work, they can’t prohibit discussions about conditions, so if an employee discusses why one candidate is better for everybody as workers, then that’s okay.  Yet employers can also force you to attend meetings and listen to one-sided political pitches.  

Labor union insignia: Employers can prohibit most political buttons and stickers, they can’t prohibit union insignia.  So while they could prohibit a “Trump-Pence” sign in your cubicle, they can’t prohibit a “Food Workers Union for Trump”.

Objecting to discrimination: If you object to discrimination based on any factor, then Title VII protects you against retaliation.  So if somebody made an offensive comment about Obama being black or Hillary being a woman, you can report about that without getting in trouble.  

Political affiliation: Most states have laws prohibiting termination for political affiliation or activity, but not all of them.  The degree of these laws of course varies from state to state; for instance, it’s illegal in Oregon to fire somebody based on how they vote, and you can’t retaliate against employees for off-duty political participation in California or New York.  

Contract: If you have a contract saying that you can only be fired for “cause”, find out what that’s defined as.  Read up before you make any official announcements or get too blunt at the water cooler.  

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