Packing officeGetting Fired because of Politics

It is an election year, and primary season is upon us in New York. People across the state are becoming increasingly active in campaigning for the candidates that share their political beliefs, and are eager to engage with their friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to promote candidates and platforms that align with the principles they believe to be most important in day to day life. It could be that there is a hot button issue you believe strongly about, or a candidate for local or federal office that represents your values, and you want to get involved and support that candidate or platform. Participation in the political process is a core American value, one that this country was founded upon.

Those getting involved and making their voice heard, possibly for the first time, may have some concerns. What if you believe your employer disagrees with your political stance? Worse yet, what if you fear your boss may be so opposed to your political positions that they may take adverse action against you? Fortunately for New York residents, the New York Labor Law provides protection to employees who engage in political activities.

New York Labor Law Section 201-D offers protection to individuals who engage in “political activities outside of working hours, off of the employer’s premises and without the use of the employer’s equipment or other property.” This protection applies so long as the activity is legal, and the individual is not a professional journalist as defined in New York Civil Rights Law Section 79-h(a)(6), a state or local officer or employee as defined in Title 5, Chapter 15 of the United States Code, or a federal employee as outlined in Title Five, Chapter 73 of the United States Code. New York Labor Law Section 201-D also provides protection for union membership, recreational activities performed outside of work hours, and legal use of consumable products outside of work hours.

The New York Labor Law defines specific categories of activities that are protected, and for which an employer cannot retaliate against an employee. Political activities include running for public office, campaigning for a candidate for public office, or participating in fundraising activities for a candidate, political party, or political advocacy group. Importantly, however, there are exceptions to the protections provided by this section of the Labor Law. Employees whose actions create a material conflict related to trade secrets, proprietary information, or other proprietary business interests are not protected under this provision. Employees may face additional restrictions on political activities if they are subject to agreements that deal with ethics, conflict of interest, or discharge of official duties. Similarly, employees of state agencies as defined by the Public Officers law may be subject to further restrictions if their activities conflict with their official duties.

If you believe that you have experienced adverse action by your employer because of your involvement in political activities, please contact Borelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. immediately to schedule a consultation.