In California, you have the right to engage in political advocacy on your own time, and your employer is breaking the law by retaliating against you because of it. The same also laws protect job applicants – an employer cannot refuse to hire someone because of their affiliation with a political movement or cause. So, you cannot legally be fired because you are part of the Black Lives Matter movement, against excessive use of force or in support of needed reform to dismantle institutional racism. Also, if you support a particular candidate, your employer cannot legally fire you for that. However, if you advocate for overthrowing the government by means of violent revolution, the law does not offer the same protection. Legal Aid at Work has a helpful factsheet with more information about how your protesting activity may or may not affect your employment
And if your advocacy to support racial equity and end white supremacy means you are raising complaints about discriminatory conditions within your workplace itself – like encouraging more diversity in hiring or changing policies that have a disparate impact on Black employees – California’s Labor Code and it’s anti-discrimination law prohibit retaliation.
Labor Code 1101 says that employers cannot make or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy “(a) forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics,” or “(b) controlling or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.” Labor Code 1102 says that no employer “shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence” employees, including by means of threat of firing, “to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.”
Not only does the law restrain your employer in these ways from firing or retaliating against you for going to a protest or doing advocacy work outside of working hours, but you may also be protected if your employer tries to prevent you from talking about your political views with colleagues or clients during work hours. However, it is not completely clear what amount of political speech during work hours is protected – and if your political talk during work disrupts the employer’s business, then you would likely not be protected.
The rules may be different for public employees. Some public employees, such as teachers, face stricter rules about political speech during working hours. And public sector employers are in general allowed to impose restraints on political activity, but “not broader than are required to preserve the efficiency and integrity of its public service.”
Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP has been in the fight against race discrimination for over a decade and our attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience representing employees in discrimination, harassment and retaliation cases. If you believe you have been retaliated against by your employer because of you have protested or spoken out in support of Black lives and against white supremacy, Please contact us.