Being Laid off for your Political Affiliation is Illegal

Aug 21, 2014 | WC & Other Laws

In the aftermath of the US Presidential Elections, some small and major business owners surfaced and said that they have fired employees and cut work hours due to President Barack Obama’s re-election.

Previously, US federal laws prohibit businesses from pouring millions of corporate money into the campaign fund of certain political candidates and political parties. Federal and some state laws also barred business owners from coercing or influencing their employees, by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment, to support a specific candidate whom they endorse.

But despite dissenters saying that these could corrupt democracy, the US Supreme Court, in its September 21, 2010 decision on the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case has freed companies from these limitations. Business owners were hence allowed to send letters, emails or information packets to their employees suggesting or even overtly recommending who they should vote for.

Prior to the November polls, CEOs who have come out to support Mitt Romney sent letters to their workers explaining the possible repercussions of another Obama win and even hinting at the potential loss of jobs or cutbacks on work hours. Company executives have stepped up their activities against the incumbent government’s overregulation, prospective tax hikes and legislations that tend to hurt their businesses like the Affordable Health Care Act.

Under Obama’s healthcare law, medium to enterprise sized businesses, firms with 50 employees or more, should provide basic coverage for full-time employees as well as their dependents. How businesses will deal with these mandated new costs range from rising prices, cutting labor costs, putting more workers to part-time status (meaning they work less than 30 hours per week) and layoffs.  Companies cannot, however, fire employees for the way the vote.

Business owners saying which candidate is good or bad for business may be protected by the First Amendment in the Citizens United ruling. But threatening to fire or firing and employee based on how they vote or who they voted for is illegal and should be held liable under existing federal and Colorado state laws.

Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws and Colorado law prohibit job discrimination sanction employment discrimination based on political affiliations. Federal and state laws ban employers from enforcing rules, regulations and policies that tend to control or direct the political activities and affiliations of their employees. To coerce or influence by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment is punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Independent of federal and state rules that protect workers from being laid off due to their political affiliations are collective bargaining agreements that require employers to state “just cause” before firing employees. Failure to do so is illegal and would have legal consequences.

Workers who are victims of discriminatory practices can file a charge of discrimination in their respective EEO Commission offices as well as a lawsuit in court, 90 days after a notice of “right to sue” has been issued by the EEOC. The relief or remedies available for employment discrimination according to the US Labor Department include back pay, hiring, promotion, reinstatement, among others.

Kaplan Morrell’s attorneys have been helping employees with their compensation-related concerns for 15 years. Call us at Kaplan Morrel at 303-780-7329 for a free consultation. Trust only the best and experienced. Contact us today and stand up for your right!