Political Discrimination in California
An employer can commit wrongful termination if they fire an employee for their political views or activities. While the employment regulations of California safeguard you from being wrongly terminated for your political views, beliefs or opinions, it’s not that easy. It would be illegal for an employer to fire, demote, or bring any other type of negative employment action against or otherwise punish his or her employee for being a member of a particular political party in San Diego or anywhere else across California.
Can an Employee Be Fired for Political Beliefs in California?
California Labor Code section 1101 restricts employers from making rules, adopting rules, or enforcing rules, regulations or policies affecting certain types of political behavior. For example, employers are not allowed to forbid employees or prevent employees from running for office, participating in politics, or engaging in political activity.
Employers are also prohibited from making any attempts to control the political affiliations or political activities of any employee. Basically, this broad clause protects most of what employees do in connection with politics so employers cannot retaliate against workers who may express political beliefs that differ from those the employer believes are best.
The First Amendment Does Not Protect You Here
One thing that is clear is that employees told to refrain from political arguments at work can’t turn to the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. Federal law does little to protect employees from being fired or disciplined for their political beliefs or activities. Some people mistakenly believe that their First Amendment free speech rights extend to the workplace.
However, for most employees, this is not the case. The First Amendment prohibits the government from infringing on free speech; it does not apply to private employers. So, unless you work for the government, the First Amendment does not limit your employer in any way. (And, even for government workers, First Amendment rights are not absolute in the workplace.)
Getting Help From a California Employment Attorney
Depending on the facts of the case, an employee victim of employer political activity retaliation may be entitled to lost wages and benefits and/or additional damages for pain and suffering.
If you are an employee and you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination on the part of your employer due to your political beliefs, you should contact Potter Handy, LLP.
Call (415) 534-1911 or email us to schedule a free, confidential consultation.