It is fairly common for employees and employers to talk to one another about politics in the workplace, especially now with the presidential campaign ramping up for the upcoming general election. As managers and staffers alike learn about one another’s political views, some employees may start to believe (and they may be right) that they are the target of discrimination due to their differing politics.
Contrary to popular belief, federal and state law do not bar political discrimination in the workplace if the person is employed by a private company. In other words, the U.S. Constitution generally restricts government action against political dissenters but does not restrict actions taken by those in the private sector. Well-established law states that public employers – local, state and federal governments as well as school districts and other public authorities – cannot discriminate against their employees based on their political affiliations or beliefs.
The United States Constitution, particularly the First Amendment, prohibits a government employer – whether local, state or federal – from discriminating against an applicant or a current employee based on his or her political beliefs, with few limited exceptions. Should an individual be able to show that his or her political views, or affiliations, caused the government employer to make an adverse employment decision, the employer must show the action would have been taken anyway regardless of the individual’s political stance. Employment action includes refusal to hire, the decision to terminate, and failure to promote, among others.
New York Law
More than a decade ago New York legislature added Section 201-d to its NY Labor law. The best known part of this law is its prohibition against discrimination in the workplace based on off-duty recreational activities; however, it also prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s political activities that are (1) outside of working hours, (2) off of the employer’s premises, and (3) without the use of the employer’s equipment or other type of property. The definition of political activities under the state is narrow and specifically covers running for public office and participating in political fundraising activities, among other activities. It does not list mere political belief or one’s expression of his or her political views.
New York is among only a handful of states that have laws specifically prohibiting employer discrimination – private or public – based on an employee’s political activity. These other states include California, New York and Washington, D.C. Two additional states, North Dakota and Colorado, make discrimination based on lawful conduct outside of work illegal.
New York Employment Discrimination Lawyers
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of political views or affiliations – or feel you have been a victim of any other type of prohibited employment discrimination – contact a seasoned New York political discrimination lawyer right away to learn about your rights under state law. Serving clients across the greater New York area in all matters relating to employment law, the skilled political discrimination attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. will provide aggressive representation and knowledgeable legal guidance on your particular case. Call (347)-464-8694 or click here today to schedule your free initial case evaluation.