Can You Be Fired for Expressing Political Beliefs in California?
Image credit: Nevada Policy Research Institute

Heated political debates between friends are one thing, but certain political activities at work may very well get you fired. You may be thinking, “Well, what about my First Amendment rights?” While all American citizens have a right to free speech, the Bill of Rights mainly applies to protect against government action – but not action by corporations.

Nevertheless, there are certain laws in California that protect private sector employees from being discriminated against due to their political activities and affiliations. This article will help you understand your rights when it comes to expressing your political views in the private California workplace.

Expressing Political Beliefs in the California Workplace: Understanding Your Rights

Political Activities in the California Workplace

A common misconception is that private sector employees in California have the right to exercise free speech at work, including expressing political views. This is partially false. California law bans private employers from discriminating against workers due to their political views, affiliations, or activities. However, there are exceptions. For instance, if you participate in a political activity that creates a conflict of interest with your employer’s business model, your job could potentially be on the line. Additionally, if you are not able to get your work done due to your on-the-clock political activities, it could be perfectly legal for your employer to demote or fire you if they see you as a liability.

Both federal and California law also protect your right to discuss labor issues – even in a non-union workplace. This includes conversing with coworkers regarding wages, working conditions, and expressing your preference for candidates who support favorable labor issues such as higher wages for hourly workers.

Political Activities Outside of Working Hours

California law also prohibits employers from adopting any “rule, regulation, or policy” that bars employees from running for public office, or participating in politics outside of work. However, if you decide to run for office or attend a protest outside of working hours, your employer could legally terminate you if these activities distract you from work to a point that your job performance suffers.

Political Affiliations in the California Workplace

While it may be legal for you to express your political affiliations and preferences while working in California, there are times when it could be illegal for your employer to do so. For instance, if your supervisor tries to control your and other employees’ political affiliations or activities by using threats of firing or demoting if you do not engage in certain political activities or actions, this could be considered unlawful behavior.

If you or your coworkers are suffering from political activity discrimination or retaliation, consult an experienced California employment attorney at Hennig Ruiz for help. Contact us today for a free consultation.