Can an employer fire an employee based on their political beliefs? The answer depends. It may come as a surprise that there are no explicit laws in New Jersey which state that someone cannot be fired due to their political views. Federal laws do not protect private employees from political discrimination, although they can be used to protect individuals in certain circumstances. While New Jersey provides no explicit protection for employees and their political opinion, employees can still be protected by other federal and state laws if they were fired, treated differently at work, or refused to be hired due to their political beliefs.
From our offices in Red Bank, NJ, Marlton, NJ, Newark, NJ, New York, NY, or Philadelphia, PA , McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represents both employees and employers throughout the state in a wide range of political discrimination matters. Our lawyers are known for their ability provide effective advocacy and protect your career. Having handled cases for both employers and employees, we understand the specific tactical and strategic issues involved on both sides of a political discrimination case. With our depth and breadth of experience, we can anticipate likely challenges and work tirelessly to overcome them.
What is Discrimination Based on Political Beliefs?
Political discrimination happens when employers make certain job decisions based on the employee’s political beliefs. For example, firing someone who supports gun control, or not hiring someone who voted republican. These are both examples of political discrimination.
Unfortunately, this type of discrimination is not specifically illegal. While it is against the law under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, or other protected classes, political views are not protected by these laws. However, this does not mean that employers are free to make decisions based on political beliefs.
Federal Laws Regarding Political Discrimination
Federal laws do not specifically protect employees from political discrimination in the workplace. However, there are certain instances where employees can be protected if the situation overlaps with other laws:
- Union Laws: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits employers from taking any adverse actions on employees for union activities. Politics and employment related issues are often related to unions, such as wages and health care, so your
activities could be protected because of this. For example, if you openly talk about supporting a certain politician because of their higher minimum wage benefits, you could be protected.
- Federal Antidiscrimination Laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex or age, among other protected characteristics. If your political beliefs or activities align with these characteristics, you may be protected from discrimination.
Political Discrimination Protection Under NJ State Law
As with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects employees against discrimination based on protected characteristics, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. While political views are not explicitly protected, if political discrimination overlaps with another form of discrimination, you may have an employment discrimination case.
For example, if a black employee is fired or disciplined for participating in a Black Lives Matter protest or a gay employee is fired for going to a LGBT rights protest, while another employee was not disciplined for attending another kind of demonstration, this is an example of employment discrimination protected by the NJLAD.
Additionally, more specific laws can apply, such as the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act passed in 2018, which prohibits restrictions on speech in the workplace regarding compensation.
What About Freedom of Speech?
Many people mistakenly believe that their First Amendment free speech right also applies to the workplace. The First Amendment ultimately forbids the government from infringing on free speech, but that does not apply to employees of private companies. Private companies have the right to fire employees who make statements or take actions that do not represent their values or contradict their established workplace policy.
While government employees do have some First Amendment protections in the workplace, they cannot always say whatever they want with no repercussion; their statements must be deemed protected speech regarding “public concern” to apply. Political views may sometimes qualify, but this can be unclear at times.
So Can I Get Fired For My Political Beliefs?
While federal and state laws do not specifically cover political views, they can still protect employees from being discriminated against in a variety of ways. Political discrimination may be illegal on other grounds, which is why it is important to consult with an employment lawyer to better understand your rights.
If you believe you have been the victim of workplace discrimination or an improper adverse employment action based on your political beliefs, you should consult with an experienced employment lawyer. The attorneys at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. can help evaluate your case, protect your career, and recover damages if appropriate.
An Experienced NJ Political Discrimination Attorney Can Help You
Especially in these divided times where political arguments are commonplace, political discrimination is a serious problem for both employers and employees that can damage workplace morale, diminish the dignity and livelihood of employees, and result in costly lawsuits. Whether you are an employer defending against a discrimination claim, or an employee who has been subjected to discrimination, our political discrimination attorneys in Red Bank, NJ, Marlton, NJ, Newark, NJ, New York, NY, or Philadelphia, PA can take action. We will provide you with a clear and candid evaluation of any potential political discrimination claims, as well as all legal options and recourse available to you. Contact us today to discuss your case.