Protection From Political Discrimination
The recent elections have created contentious political environments in many workplaces. Divisive opinions on matters such as the presidency, same-sex marriage, and legalizing marijuana have stirred up potent emotions for many. Strong opposing opinions lead not just to conflict among peers, it can sometimes result in discrimination and retaliation.
Private Sector Employment
In California, political discrimination and retaliation is illegal. Employees’ outside political views and activities may not be held against them by their employers. In the private sector, efforts to control an employee’s political activities outside of the workplace constitutes workplace political discrimination under the California Labor Code.
Employers may not create workplace policies aimed toward controlling employees’ political activities. This includes activities such as:
- Running for public office
Employers also may not condition employment upon political affiliation or threaten to fire employees with opposing viewpoints. They also may not constrain employees’ schedules to prevent them from voting.
The Legislature has enacted certain statutes for the express purpose of protecting the rights of employees to participate in political activities outside of work. Any efforts to interfere with or limit these rights are illegal.
The same protection against political discrimination and retaliation extends to government employees, even if they participate in political action that conflicts with their employer’s official position. They may not be punished or discharged for campaigning or voting against the administration they serve.
Employees’ campaign activities are protected even when these activities are adverse to the current incumbent, for whom they work. Elected officials, public officers, or public employees may not use any form of threats or bribes to secure votes or funding. They may not seek to influence employees’ political actions by using their official authority.
Protection against political discrimination and retaliation is governed by the California Labor Code as well as the United States Constitution. Expressing political views outside of the workplace is considered free speech, which is protected from governmental reprisal by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as the California Constitution.
Political Opinions in the Workplace
While you are well within your rights to discuss and engage in political activities outside of the workplace, doing so at work is not so cut and dry. At the very least, you risk creating an uncomfortable atmosphere, and you don’t want to be accused of political discrimination yourself. It is best to keep your personal opinions to yourself when you are at work.
If you feel you have been the victim of political discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, it is important that you speak with an experienced employment law attorney right away. Many employment law claims have a short statute of limitations, so delay may cause you to lose your rights to compensation.
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