Can I get fired for my political opinions?

The more relevant question is, can you voice a political opinion in the workplace? That depends on where you work, what you said, and other factors. In other words, there is no straightforward answer to this question because it is complex.

Many people are aware of the First Amendment and that it protects a person’s right to freedom of speech. While it does prevent the government from infringing on a person’s speech, it does not mean there wouldn’t be consequences for what you say. However, no federal protection is guaranteed for private-sector workers to be dismissed for what they say. That can include what they say outside of the workplace.

There are laws to prevent you from being fired and other actions in the workplace based on union activity, race, disability, color, national origin, sex, and religion. No federal laws prevent anything from happening if you voice your opinions. This may seem unfair since the Supreme Court states that companies can campaign and endorse political candidates.

This stance amounts to an employer or supervisor sharing political opinions and suggesting you to vote for a particular candidate. While they can try to persuade you to vote for whom they like, ultimately, it’s up to you whom you choose to vote for.

While you can share your political opinion, and your employer can share their political opinion, neither you nor the employer is legally protected on the federal level from any consequences you may face for speaking out. That said, New York has stringent limits on dealing with political talks in the workplace.

The state’s Legal Activities Law (LAL) bans employment discrimination based on a worker’s political activities – unless those beliefs affect their work. This is not all-encompassing protection. It is limited. For further information on this, visit HERE.

In most cases, when it comes to politics, it can be beneficial to keep an opinion to yourself, but each situation is different. While there is little chance you would go to jail for saying something politically controversial, you could lose your job. Additionally, should your talking points include inciting a riot (lawless action), your speech is not protected, even if it is intended as a joke.

It’s important to note that New York is an employment-at-will state. Workers may be fired at any time for any reason, but they may also quit. Thus, you could lose your job if you express a political opinion that the company does not like. Some exceptions include that not everyone works in an at-will workplace, and civil service workers can only be terminated for “just cause.”

Regardless of your politics and whether or not you voice them in the workplace, if you were fired for what you view as unlawful reasons, you have a right to take legal action. Call us today. We’ve got your back.

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