Political Speech at Work: What Is and Isn't Protected

In a highly charged political climate, many people wonder if they have the right to engage in political speech at work. Can your boss fire you for saying you don’t like his or her candidate? Can you pass out political pamphlets in the workplace, or does that violate labor law? Political speech at work is a complex issue, so if you think your rights have been violated, hire an experienced employment law attorney in San Jose, CA, to help you determine how to proceed. Here is a look at some of the things that are—and are not—protected when it comes to political speech at work. politics - work

Expressing Political Views: Not Protected

Your right to free speech does not necessarily extend to your right to engage in political speech at work. Employers in privately owned companies can decide to ban political discussions of any kind in the workplace. For public sector employees, there are more free speech protections, but these employees can legally have their political speech restricted as well. Generally, employees can be fired for engaging in political speech at work when it interferes with their jobs in some way, whether it takes time away from their duties or causes them to treat customers or co-workers differently who do not agree with them. However, if an employer seems to target employees whose views differ from their own and don’t apply the rules fairly, then he or she could be violating anti-discrimination laws.

Off-Duty Political Activity: Protected

Generally, employees can engage in political activities outside of their working hours without fear of retaliation from their employers. An exception would be if the employee’s activities violated any morality clause or similar contract point. For instance, if your contact allows you to be terminated if you are arrested and you are rounded up during a political protest, your employer could fire you because your arrest violated the terms of your agreement.

Political Displays at Work: Not Protected

Your employer can prevent you from wearing political shirts, buttons, hats, and other pieces of clothing through the use of a dress code. He or she can also decide to prohibit any kind of political signage in the workplace, as long as the rules are applied equally. An exception is that non-managerial employees are legally entitled to wear and display labor union insignia.