We have all seen politically charged Facebook posts among our friends, family and possibly coworkers, espousing ideas from both sides of the political spectrum. In other cases, employees gather in the break room and enter heated political discussions. However, can your boss legally make decisions about your employment based on political statements and beliefs? That depends on whether the employer is public or private, what was discussed, when the conversation or post took place and whether the remarks are protected under California laws.
Some political topics can cause serious problems for employees and employers, such as abortion, gay marriage, or even the outcome of a presidential election. With the country more polarized than ever, private employers believe that allowing political discussions at work can lead to workplace bullying, harassment and a hostile work environment.
Public employees have a lot less to worry about, as they have protections under the First Amendment. For the rest of us, speaking up on politics during work hours can carry risks. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Are There Exceptions to Political Beliefs in the Workplace?
In most cases, legislation that affects the workplace can be fair game depending on the circumstances. For example, the National Labor Relations Act can be discussed if it affects the workplace or union activities.
In California, some political beliefs at the workplace, or elsewhere, are not grounds for dismissal. California has off-duty and on-duty limitations when it comes to certain political beliefs, such as supporting parties, candidates or ideas. When California employees are fired for political beliefs, legal options might be available.