The recent presidential election has been nothing short of a lightning rod, sparking huge protests across the nation this past weekend and many people took to social media to vent their opinions and frustrations. How are employee's political stances and opinions protected in the workplace? It depends (typical lawyer response, but I'll explain below).
First Amendment Protection
The most obvious argument people like to make is that their political speech is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Well, not really, unless you work in the public sector as the First Amendment prohibits the GOVERNMENT'S restriction on free speech, not private employers.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
The NLRA is a federal labor law that does not only apply to union members (but does only apply to non-supervisory employees) and Section 7 of the NLRA provides that “[e]mployees shall have the right . . . to engage in . . . concerted activities for the purpose of . . . mutual aid or protection.” Thus, if an employee(s) engages in conduct to attempt to improve workplace conditions and the workplace generally for them and their coworkers, then it may be a violation if an employer retaliates against employees who do this. So, for example, if an employee advocates or participates in political activities such as marches and protests for things like paid sick leave, a living wage, etc, then it will more than likely be held unlawful to be disciplined or terminated for these activities.
Some political issues relate to employees' protected class status such as their sex, race, national origin, religion, etc. If employees engage in impassioned talk about these things, they could be considered harassing and even as creating a hostile work environment, depending on the situation. Thus, employers can, in those circumstances, regulate employee's speech in the workplace.