Article main image
Aug 11, 2016

Over the weekend, my HR buddy Heather Kinzie and I exchanged emails about employees discussing politics on social media. Serendipitously, a recent employee firing over an explosive tweet — yeah, I know, shocking — provides me with some fodder for you.

Nancy Dillon at the the New York Daily News reports about a (former) employee of California’s State Board of Equalization, who tweeted an image of a masked hangman holding a noose above the words “I’m Ready for Hillary.” Worse yet, he tweeted it on the official Twitter account for the Riverside County Republican Party.

The employer learned about the tweet the hard way; that is, when the press reached out to the Riverside County GOP chairman for comment. To its credit, the Riverside County GOP issued a public apology and, shortly thereafter, the employee who tweeted the image resigned.

You know the bar rules, right?

When enjoying your highball, you know not to discuss either politics or religion.

If only these rules applied at work. But, I do want to make a few points here:

  1. Private-sector employees have few, if any, protections for political speech. There is no federal law, which specifically forbids retaliation against employees who talk politics. There may be some refuge in the the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees when discussing working conditions with one another. Plus, a few states and cities have laws protecting political speech. Employment lawyer and blogger extraordinaire, Donna Ballman, has more on that here.
  2. Otherwise, most private-sector employers can have a rule banning political discussions at workAlthough, I wish you luck enforcing that one.
  3. Plus, nothing protects hate-speech onlinePolitical or not — even if intended as satire — an employee who offends reasonable people with his online speech, risks losing his job.
Read Eric’s blog, The Employer Handbook, to stay up to date on employment law developments.