Can My Employer Fire Me Over Political Differences?

You and your employer argue constantly over politics. Your co-worker is a Republican, but you are a staunch Democrat. You refuse to sign a political initiative that is circulating in the office. You write a political blog in your free time. You see a job ad that asks for applicants to be conservatives because it states that liberals lack logic, reasoning, and reading comprehension skills.

These are issues that Illinois residents may experience in their workplace or while applying for jobs. You may think that these and other political views constitute discrimination and may be covered under laws and rights such as the First Amendment or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, the protections outlined in the First Amendment do not apply to private employment.

Also, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination based on protected classes. Under the law, employers cannot discriminate against job applicants and employees based on race, age, color, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy status, and disability.

Employers also cannot retaliate against employees or applicants who assert their rights under the law and act as whistleblowers who expose an employer’s wrongdoing. Title VII prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, compensation, benefits, firing, discipline, and promotions.

Political beliefs and affiliations are not protected classes and are therefore not covered under Title VII. Plus, most states follow “at-will” laws, meaning that an employer can lay off an employee at any time and for any reason at long as there is no discrimination or retaliation involved. Conversely, employees can quit their job at any time, without notice.

What this means is that, to a large extent, private employers can legally discriminate against employees and job applicants based on political beliefs and activities outside of work. Public employees typically have more First Amendment rights in regards to political activity protections. However, government employees are not granted full protections and could still be disciplined or even fired for their political behavior, particularly if it occurs at the workplace during working hours and affects their work performance.

So if you believe you have experienced wrongful termination due to politics, there may not be much you can do legally. However, you may still want to seek legal help to understand what rights you may have. Contact Schaumburg employment rights lawyers for help with your case.

State Laws That Apply

While there is no federal law that applies to political differences and their effect on employment, some states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on political activity. The laws include the following:

  • Colorado, Utah, and North Dakota prohibit discrimination based on “lawful conduct outside of work.”
  • Connecticut prohibits discrimination based on First Amendment guarantees for both public and private employers, as long as the political activity does not interfere with the employee’s job performance.
  • New York makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees for “recreational activities” that they engage in outside of work such as discussing politics at a social event.
  • Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for engaging in “political activities” in states such as California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Minnesota, South Carolina, Nebraska, Missouri, and West Virginia, as well as Madison, Wisconsin, and Seattle, Washington. However, each state varies in terms of what types of conduct and activities are considered political.
  • In Oregon, Louisiana, and Massachusetts, it is illegal to discriminate against employees based solely on political campaign contributions.
  • It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on party membership in Utah, Iowa, and Louisiana, as well as Washington D.C., Broward County, Florida, Urbana, Illinois, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
  • New York, Illinois, and Washington prohibit employers from discriminating against employees for election-related political activities.
  • In Arizona, Oregon, Iowa, Washington D.C., Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who have signed recalls, initiatives, referendums, or candidate petitions.
  • New Mexico makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on “political opinions.”
  • Montana is the only state that is not “at-will,” meaning employers cannot fire workers without good cause. The good cause must be job-related, so it would be illegal to fire someone because of their political activities.

What Can I Do?

Since politics are not a protected class under federal law, any discrimination claims would have to come about based on state law. In Illinois, for example, an employer technically has the legal right to fire an employer over political differences except in the following cases:

  • In Illinois, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees for election-related political activities.
  • It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on party membership in Urbana, Illinois.

If either of the above applies to you, you can file a discrimination claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. If you receive a notice that there was substantial evidence for your claim or that it could not be resolved, then you have 90 days to file a civil action lawsuit.

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, you can opt to file your civil action in a circuit court where the discrimination occurred, as long as it follows the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. A civil action suit must be filed within 90 days of receipt of the IDHR Director’s notice that there was substantial evidence for your claim or that your claim could not be resolved.

Since employment discrimination law can be complex, it’s a good idea to contact an employment law attorney who can assess your case and inform you of your legal rights. Do not try to handle such a case on your own.

Contact Schaumburg Employment Rights Attorneys

If you have been let go from your job over political differences or other issues, you may wonder if it can be considered wrongful termination. Federal and state laws may not protect you, depending on the circumstances.

The Schaumburg employment rights attorneys at North Suburban Legal Services can assess your claim and help you understand the law. To schedule a free consultation, please call (312) 313-4038.




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