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Preventing Political Backlash In the Workplace

California employers must not discriminate or retaliate against workers based on political activities, affiliations or speech.

  • California Labor Code section 1101 bans employers from making, adopting or enforcing any rule, regulation or policy that: (i) forbids or prevents employees from engaging or participating in politics, including running for public office; or (ii) controls or directs employee political activities or affiliations.
  • California Labor Code section 1102 prohibits employers from coercing, influencing or attempting to coerce or influence their employees politically by terminating or threatening to terminate any worker.
  • The federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects union and nonunion employees against repercussion for discussing labor issues, such as how to raise  minimum wage or ensure a safer work environment, as well as for endorsement or support of political candidates advocating improved labor conditions.

The California Supreme Court’s definition of protected “political activities or affiliations”  broadly includes any action related to or connected with the orderly conduct and peaceful organization, regulation, and administration of government.

Violation of Labor Code 1101 or 1102 is a misdemeanor punishable for an individual by imprisonment for up to one year or fine up to $1,000 and for a corporation a fine of up to $5,000. Labor Code section 1103. An injured employee may also bring a civil suit for damages caused by the violation, including wrongful termination. Labor Code section 1105.

Violators of the Ralph Civil Rights Act are subject to civil suit for compensating money damages, punitive damages, injunction, attorney fees and civil penalty of up to $25,000.

On the other hand, as long as management abides by these restrictions, an employer may communicate with its workers, stockholders and their families about the company’s support of or opposition to state legislation, regulations or ballot measures. See, California Chamber of Commerce guideline pamphlet.

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For further assistance, please contact one of our attorneys Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Tim Bowles

October 23, 2020