With so much political discord in the nation right now, employees may have questions regarding what statements they can or cannot make in the workplace. Can you be penalized, or fired, for sharing your political beliefs? What about for stating how you intend to vote? What if you are so passionate about your beliefs that you want to participate in a local protest? Can you discuss politics with other employees, while you are at work?

Employment laws vary, depending on your location. But, in the state of Florida, you can be fired for certain actions, including protesting. However, this does not protect employers from discriminatory actions, some of which may be related to political beliefs. If you were wrongly terminated from your position, or reprimanded, due to your political beliefs, you may have legal options available. Work closely with a Florida discrimination lawyer to better understand these options.

What Is Workplace Discrimination?

Federal laws protect employees from discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits discrimination of employees based on certain factors, including:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin
  • Disability
  • Age

You might notice that political beliefs are included in this list. This is because federal laws do not protect employees from discrimination based on their political beliefs.

What Is the First Amendment?

The First Amendment is also known as the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. When reading this, you might agree that this protects your legal right to not only discuss your political beliefs openly, but also to protest for them.

While Americans do have a right to the First Amendment, this does not often extend to the workplace. The First Amendment protects United States citizens from the government suppressing their freedom of speech, but this does not necessarily apply to the workplace.

Millions of protesters have gathered around the country over the last couple of months. Whether you are protesting for the reopening of the states or equal racial rights, employees might wonder what their employment rights are if they decide to protest.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If suppressing an employee’s First Amendment also discriminates against them, it could be illegal. Because many protests today are racially motivated, it blurs the lines of what an employer can and cannot do.

What Is An At-Will Employment Agreement?

An at-will employment agreement means that an employer can terminate an employment agreement at any time, for any reason, as long as that reason is legal. Florida is an at-will employment state, which means that it is legal to terminate an employee for certain political actions, including protesting.

However, there are a few exceptions to this type of agreement: Depending on your employment contract, you may or may not be exempt from this law. Just a few employees who could be exempt include:

  • Government employees: The First Amendment applies to government organizations, prohibiting employers from punishing protesters.
  • Union workers: Union workers often have unique contracts and the terms of the employment agreement are listed in the union’s documents.

While employers can, in some cases, fire employees for peaceful political protesting, this does not necessarily mean that they are exempt from all lawsuits. Firing someone based on discrimination is illegal. It is protected under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Determining whether actions taken based on political beliefs are discriminatory, however, can be difficult.

Can I Be Fired For Discussing Voting Plans?

The state of Florida prohibits employers from threatening or firing employees, based on their voting activities. Employers also cannot coerce employees to register to vote.

Can I Be Fired for Sharing Political Beliefs on Social Media?

It is possible to be fired for sharing political beliefs on social media. If your account is public and the things that you post violate your employment contract, or your employer’s policies, your employer may be able to fire you.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that employees do not even need to mention, or list, their employer for repercussions. When employees make public statements or share certain beliefs on their social media accounts and it impacts the reputation of their employer, they may be fired. Customers may retaliate by boycotting or defaming the business.

Defamation is the behavior of damaging someone’s reputation. It often involves slander or libel. Employees, or employers, who publicly post about the other in a negative way, could be at risk of a defamation lawsuit.

How Can I Avoid Being Fired While Still Sharing My Beliefs?

The desire to maintain your employment, while also wanting to share your political beliefs can be a challenge. It is always a good idea to be clear and understand your employer’s expectations and policies, before being put in a situation that leads to you losing your job. Both employers and employees can use the following tips to prevent a costly, and reputation-damaging lawsuit regarding political beliefs:

  • Be clear about your employee policies and expectations: Clearly list your policies regarding protests and other politically motivated behaviors. If you do not want your employees to protest, include it in the employment agreement. If you are okay with them attending peaceful protests, include that too.
  • Request a copy of the written policy: As an employee, it can be helpful to have a copy of the written policy.
  • Leave politics out of the workplace: Political discussions often lead to disputes. If possible, leave politics out of the workplace entirely.
  • Avoid posting anything about your employer on social media: It is never a good idea to share where you work, or any concerns you have about your employer on public sites.
  • Know your legal rights: Understanding your rights regarding employment discrimination and political protests is important.
  • Know when to reach out to a lawyer: If you believe that you were wrongly fired, or discriminated against, discuss your case with an employment lawyer.

If you believe that your employer terminated your employment agreement, and their behavior goes against Florida state laws, then it is important to reach out to an employment lawyer as soon as possible. An employment lawyer will evaluate the details of your case and determine if your employer violated your rights.