Recently, there has been more and more news stories about companies firing their employees because of their political views and activities. These companies have expressed that leadership is of a specific political mindset that does not welcome contrary beliefs. Because of the popularity of these stories, there is a growing concern about other companies taking similar stances in order to distance themselves from employees who have unpopular or extreme political views. For California based employers, such actions are a not a good idea.
California has laws that are intended to protect the rights of employees who engage in lawful political expression and political activities. Under Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102, employers are prohibited from trying to coerce or influence the political activities and affiliations of their employees. Furthermore, California law prohibits employers from firing their employees for engaging in political activities. Labor Code section 96(k) expressly prohibits employers from taking adverse action against an employee because of their lawful off-duty conduct that occurs away from the employer’s premises. This includes political activity.
If an employer violates these laws, the employee can make a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. A successful claim for wrongful termination can result in financial compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, and punitive damages. However, employers do have other options when it comes to an employee’s political conduct that they disagree with.
If an employee’s political activity is unlawful, and the employer has strong evidence of this, then they are not protected under California law. Similarly, if an employee’s political conduct in the workplace is hostile, unprofessional, or disruptive of work, they can be dealt with through applicable disciplinary measures.
Have you been fired because of your political views or for engaging in political activity? Contact our Hollister employment law attorney to find out how we can assist you today.