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Can Extreme Political Views Be Considered a Hostile Work Environment?

Nov. 16, 2022

Political expressions like campaign materials and provocative/unprofessional clothing can cause discomfort in the workplace. Extreme political views can create a hostile work environment and uncomfortable dynamics. But if your employer fires you because you disagree with their political views, you can sue them for wrongful discharge with help from a Schaumburg employment law attorney.  

Is Political Speech a Protected Activity? 

Political activity and speech are not well protected by anti-retaliation laws. You are protected under the law if you are a government employee. But that doesn't mean you are allowed to display and distribute political paraphernalia to campaign at work. 

Employers have the right to enforce rules that forbid non-work-based activities such as political campaigning. This includes: 

  • Distributing and displaying political materials. 

  • Using company resources to spread political agendas via promotional materials. These include buttons, shirts, and other items that display political messages.  

The National Labor Relations Act does not protect these activities. You may be legally discharged or face workplace penalties if you participate in these activities.  

Why Do Employers Have to Be Careful?  

While the law seems to be siding with employers, they must be careful before firing employees over their political affiliations or speech. They cannot discharge a worker for engaging in specific conduct. For instance, as per Illinois law, employers cannot manipulate workers to vote for a particular candidate or discriminate against a worker who wants to vote for the opponent. Firing an employee who wishes to vote for liberal candidates is a wrongful discharge.  

The nature of the political materials and conduct also comes into play here. For example, take the Capitol Riots. Some individuals who participated in it were arrested later. But as per Illinois law, their employers cannot fire them because they have a criminal record. Employers can fire them based on the activities that got them arrested. They cannot use the arrests as an excuse for termination.  

Employers can also terminate employment if political activities create a hostile work environment, i.e., if the activity: 

  • Hinders work performance. In this case, you have to prove that the words or actions of a supervisor prevented you from working efficiently. 

  • Is discriminatory. The worker or supervisor exhibits discriminatory behavior, i.e., against someone from a protected class.  

The burden of proof falls on victims. Once reported, your employer must address the issue timely and find a resolution. If the case is handled poorly or ignored, you can sue for damages and the emotional trauma you experienced because of the harassment.  

Contact The Law Office Of Michael T. Smith & Associates For A Consultation Today! 

Do you dread going to work every day because of abusive colleagues or an irresponsible employer? Whether you face discrimination because of your race, gender, religion, or any other protected category, a Schaumburg employment law attorney can ensure you are compensated for your trauma. At the Law Office of Michael T. Smith & Associates, we have represented clients like you for years and ensured they received the compensation they deserved. Contact us for a consultation by dialing (847) 750-3851.