In one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent history, it is often hard to avoid political conversations and opinions concerning the candidates. At work, however, many people question rules concerning political speech, and whether espousing a particular belief may cause them to lose their job. Further, if they do lose their job or suffer other negative consequences seemingly as the result of their postition on a candidate or policy, do they have any legal rights to fight back?
In general, whether you are protected for political speech depends on the type of work you do, your state laws, and the type of speech involved. For example, in most circumstances, if you work for a private company, the First Amendment will not protect your right to campaign at work or vocally support a particular candidate. On the other hand, if you engage in a discussion with your colleagues about how one candidate or a set of policies could improve your working conditions at your job (i.e. have more favorable benefits for families, in favor of increasing minimum wage, etc.) then the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), may protect you. Further, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) may offer some protection if racist or sexist comments are made about one of the candidates, and you face retaliation for complaining about these comments. Additionally, if your employer only allows discussion that favors one particular religion or ethnicity, and you face negative employment action for voicing a contrary opinion, then you might have a claim.
In most situations however, your employer may not fire or discipline you for political activities you are involved in outside of work. Further, many cities and localities have specific laws prohibiting employers from taking disciplinary action for outside political involvement.
For more information, or if you believe you have faced discrimination based on your political beliefs, please contact the experienced Atlanta discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.