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Can I Be Fired for My Political Views?

exit employmentPolitical Views and Employment

The United States is gearing up for a big presidential election in 2020 and most people have strong opinions about the candidates.

But can you voice those opinions in the workplace?

The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

Though a lot of people share their political views while on the job, you could be terminated for things you say, depending on where you work and other factors.

The First Amendment is in place to protect speech, but there is no federal protection guaranteed for private-sector employees from being fired for what they say. This could include what they say when they are outside of the workplace, too.

The First Amendment prevents the government from infringing on your speech, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences for what you say. And while laws protect you from termination and other punitive actions in the workplace based on your race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, or union activity, there are no federal laws preventing anything from happening to you for voicing your opinions.

Political Endorsements

But what about companies that endorse candidates?

According to the Supreme Court, companies can endorse and even campaign for political candidates.

This sounds like a double standard and it is, for the most part.

Your supervisor or your employer as a whole is free to share political opinions and encourage you to vote for a particular candidate. Your employer is free to try to influence your vote, but cannot force you to vote a certain way since you’ll vote in private. Some employers choose to attempt to influence employee votes because they view a certain candidate as better or worse for the company.

The bottom line? You can share your political opinion and your employer can share its political opinion, but neither of you are legally protected at the federal level from the consequences of doing so.

Laws Vary from State to State

Though there’s no federal protection concerning how a company can handle politics, some states have enacted laws to make things a bit easier on employees.

For instance, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia have banned companies from threatening employees with a company shutdown if one candidate or the other wins an election.

New York has gone further than most states in setting limits when it comes to workplace politics by banning discrimination based on an employee’s political activities or beliefs unless it affects their work. The state’s Legal Activities Law prohibits employment discrimination based on an individual’s political activities, but protection is limited. To read more about the law, check out this link from NY Senate.

It might come as a surprise to those who work in places that aren’t politically focused that about a quarter of employees reported they had received political messages from their supervisors, which rarely goes over well. The vast majority of people believe there should be limits in place concerning politics and campaigning for candidates at work. And with each election seeming to become increasingly more polarized, it’s easy to see why political topics in the workplace would make people uncomfortable.

Employment experts recommend keeping your political opinions to yourself, but it can be tough when you feel pressured into feeling a certain or voting for a certain candidate way by your employer. Election years tend to be rough for interpersonal relationships and there’s no exception to that trend in the workplace.

If you’d like to discuss a workplace situation related to politics in your workplace or you have questions about whether or not a termination or other punitive action against you was legal, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.

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