California Labor Code §§ 1101-1106 are the state laws relating to political affiliations, and California Labor Code § 1101 states that an employer cannot make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy that forbids or prevents employees from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming candidates for public office, or controls or directs, or tends to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees. California Labor Code § 1102 establishes that no employer can coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence their employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.
When a person’s employer violates the applicable sections of the Labor Code by punishing them for their political beliefs or activity, they could be able to sue the employer for public policy wrongful termination or wrongful constructive termination. Common examples of political affiliation discrimination include people being terminated for writing opinion pieces in their local newspapers criticizing political candidates or people joining certain abortion rights groups.
A person’s political affiliation on its own does not represent a protected class in California, but state law still protects a person’s right to be politically active outside the workplace, and an employer cannot penalize a person for those political activities. Employers may be permitted to discourage or restrict the ability of an employee to discuss political matters with clients or coworkers.
It is important to understand the relevant sections of the Labor Code only prohibit employers from taking actions that are politically motivated. There can be situations in which an employer’s actions could be justified relating to political activity, such as an employer terminating an employee who accepts a political position that will impact their availability for work.
Before a person sues their employer, they first need to file a notice of the employer’s violation of the California workplace political coercion law with the California Labor and Workplace Development Agency and deliver a copy of the notice to the employer via certified mail. The Labor and Workplace Development Agency could investigate the case itself.
If the agency does not investigate, it will notify a person within 65 days, at which point the person can file a lawsuit in California Superior Court against the employer. When the Labor and Workforce Development Agency does investigate a workplace political retaliation complaint, it again must notify a person of the decision within 65 days.
The agency could take up to 120 days to investigate and decide whether to issue a citation against the employer, but this time limit could extend up to 180 days. If the agency does not issue a citation, it will notify a person, and they can then file a civil lawsuit for political activity coercion.
In a suit against an employer over retaliation for political activity or beliefs, a person may be able to recover compensatory damages such as lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and possible punitive damages in a limited number of cases.
Do you think that you might have been the victim of political affiliation discrimination in the greater San Francisco area? Olivier & Schreiber, LLP knows how difficult these kinds of claims can be for most people, but we will walk you through the entire process and fight to help you recover everything you are entitled to.
Our firm will conduct an independent investigation into your case, and we can then fight to make sure that you are able to hold your employer accountable. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our San Francisco political affiliation discrimination attorney.
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