California Labor Code 1102 prohibits employers from firing – or threatening to fire – employees for taking a particular political stance or participating in a particular political activity. Employers who retaliate against employees for their politics can be sued for wrongful termination or related claims.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
1102. No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his 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.
California employers are not permitted to terminate – or threaten to terminate – employees in attempt to influence their political beliefs of activities. Examples of such political activities include:
- attending political rallies
- wearing symbolic clothes or jewelry
- participating in certain litigation
- associating with particular political groups or parties1
It is also unlawful for employers to threaten not to hire job applicants because of their politics.2 But employers are allowed to fire employees – or not hire job applicants – for apolitical reasons that may be indirectly related to politics.
Example: Jeff is a bank teller in Los Angeles. Jeff is always late because his volunteer position as president of the local Green Party chapter keeps him so busy. It is legal for Jeff’s boss to fire him for his tardiness even though the reason he is late is his political party activity.
Note that employees who have been fired – or threatened with firing – for their politics cannot file suit against their employer unless they first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEO) first. Only once aggrieved employees exhaust their administrative remedies can they then file suit.3
- California Labor Code 1102 – Coercing or influencing political activities of employees. Gay Law Students Assn. v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. (Cal., 1979), 24 Cal. 3d 458, 156 Cal. Rptr. 14, 595 P.2d 592.