Can I Be Fired For Protesting In California?

The Black Lives Matter movement had spread across the nation like wildfire. Regardless of which side of the matter you stand on, the effects of your actions may have work-related consequences. Many workers want to voice their opinions by joining protests or posting to social media, but are afraid of repercussions from their employers. The legal team at Davtyan Law Firm wants to help you understand your employment rights when it comes to protesting and engaging in other political activity.

Many people mistakenly believe that the First Amendment’s right to free speech would protect them in these situations. However, that’s not always the case. Private-sector employers do not have protection under this amendment. Only employees working for the government are protected by the First Amendment in this situation.

Unfortunately for many workers, most states do not have protections for these kinds of activities. This means that yes, workers in many states can be fired for participating in BLM protests. However, California is one of the few states that legally protects the political activities of workers. Section 1102 of the California Labor Code states that employers must not interfere with or control an employee’s political decisions or activities. In addition, Sections 96 includes protections from being disciplined, demoted, or fired for “lawful conduct occurring during non-working hours” away from your workplace. But this doesn’t mean that employers always play by the rules.

“All too often, we see employees who have had their state and federal employment rights violated by their employers,” says Emil Davtyan, the firm’s founder. “Our goal is to help these employees be able to participate in lawful political activity without fear of retaliation from their jobs.”

Some workers may also face illegal workplace discrimination because of their favoring of one movement over another. This would include encouraging workers to participate in one kind of movement, like LGBT+ movements, but discouraging participation in the BLM movement, something Starbucks has been accused of doing. Employers must not show preference of one political movement over another. This includes policies relating to dress codes including t-shirts, masks and more. For example, if an employer allows an employee to wear a Black Lives Matter shirt, they must also allow employees to wear Pride Month shirts and vice versa. These things fall under the political speech protections provided by the state of California.

It is important to note that there are still some rules employees must follow that relate to protesting and political speech. Employees cannot skip work without permission to protest. You must still follow your company’s leave policies or they may be able to take negative actions against you. Employees must also follow a legal dress code at work. For example, if your workplace only allows solid color t-shirts, you cannot wear a t-shirt with a political message or image and claim that it is protected.

If you have been fired or discriminated against by your employer after participating in a protest or participating in other lawful political activity, call Davtyan Law Firm. We are an experienced law firm that focuses solely on employment law in California. Call us today at (818) 275-5799 to discuss your options.

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Based in California, we focus exclusively on employment law, protecting employees' rights. We handle a broad range of employment disputes including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour issues, among others.

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