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Is Political Discrimination Legal?

You might assume that any form of discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Unfortunately, not all characteristics are off-limits. While there are many protected characteristics that are unlawful to discriminate against due to federal, state, and local laws, there are still traits that are not protected from discrimination. This can leave some employees wondering if the discrimination they’re experiencing at work is illegal or not. Political discrimination is one of the various forms of discrimination many employees might not understand their rights regarding.

Of course, if you believe you’re experiencing any sort of discrimination at work, you want to take action against it. However, is the discrimination you’re facing actually prohibited? Learn more about political discrimination.

Is Political Affiliation a Protected Class?

There is no federal law that makes political discrimination a protected class. This means, no federal laws prohibit this form of discrimination. In many cases, employers can use an employee’s political affiliation and views to make employment decisions. </span></p>

However, some states do have laws that provide more protections for employees experiencing political discrimination, including New York. In New York State, employers may not discriminate against you for engaging in “political activities outside of working hours, off the employer’s premises, and without use of employer’s equipment or other property, if such activities are legal.” New York Labor Law defines “political activities” as the following:</span>

  • Running for public office;
  • Campaigning for a candidate for public office; or<
  • participating in fund-raising activities for the benefit of a candidate, political party, or political advocacy group.

However, there are some additional limitations to this law. Not all employees are covered by this law, including employees who are considered to be professional journalists under New York Civil Rights Law Section 79-h(a)(6). What protections are available to public employees can also vary. An employee’s activity is also not protected if it “creates a material conflict of interest related to the employer's trade secrets, proprietary information or other proprietary or business interest.”

National Labor Relations Act

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does provide some protections for employees regarding their political activity. This allows non-supervisory employees to participate in political activity related to labor or working conditions. This gives employees the right to participate in the following: </span>
  • Discuss legislation that impacts working conditions;
  • Campaign for a political party, if that activity is related to the employee’s working conditions; and<
  • Discuss legislation regarding working conditions.

The NLRA also gives employees the right to do the following:

  • Self organization;
  • Form, join, or assist labor organizations;
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing; and
  • Engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.

Find Out How Brown Kwon & Lam Can Help

Understanding what rights and protections you have in the workplace can be extremely complicated. You might know whether or not what you’re experiencing is considered discrimination or if that type of discrimination is prohibited. This is why you need an employment discrimination attorney. At Brown Kwon &amp; Lam, we’ve helped many employees in NYC with difficult cases get the justice they deserve.

If you suspect that your employee rights have been violated, don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help.