It is considered discrimination to fire an employee based on gender, race, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical or mental disability. However, there is often some confusion as to whether employment discrimination also covers political views. The short answer is no, private employees are not protected from discrimination based on political opinions under federal law. While some states do provide protection for employees from specific types of political-based employment discrimination, Arizona is not one of these states.
Discrimination Based on Political Beliefs
Discrimination based on political views occurs when an employer makes job-related decisions based on an employee’s political opinions, civic activities, or party affiliation. For example, it may be considered employment discrimination if an employee is demoted for supporting gun control or if an employer does not hire applicants who vote Democrat. Political affiliation is considered a “non-protected classification” which means that the law has determined that the particular classification is not deserving of legal protection against discrimination.
In Arizona, employers may choose to hire or fire individuals based on their political activities and affiliations. This means that an employer may fire or refuse to hire an individual who actively advocates against the employer’s position. Arizona is also an “at-will employment” state. Unless certain rare exceptions apply, an employer has the right to terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. According to A.R.S. § 23-1501, the employment relationship is contractual in nature and the relationship between an employee and employer is severable at the pleasure of either party unless both parties signed a contract to the contrary.
Employment and the First Amendment
It is a common misconception that the First Amendment of the Constitution protects employees from discrimination based on politics. The National Constitution Center describes the First Amendment as the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press, and petition. However, the First Amendment does not protect a person’s political views in the workplace.
There are some exceptions to this rule. Employees who work for public employers, such as the federal, state, or local government, are protected under the First Amendment and may have a legal claim if fired for their political opinions. These protections are not available to employees in the private sector. In addition, several states such as California, New York and the District of Columbia, explicitly prohibit employers from making job decisions based on an applicant’s or employee’s politics.
What Legal Options are Available to Employees?
If you have been terminated from your job or are being threatened with termination due to your political views or actions, seek advice from an experienced employment law attorney. In some cases, there may be overlap between discrimination based on political beliefs and discrimination due to age, religion, or other protected classifications. You may also have legal grounds for action if you believe that your employer is trying to influence your political affiliations or activities.
If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated or that your freedom of speech was violated, speak with a qualified employment law attorney at JacksonWhite Law today.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.