As November nears and political activity heats up, many employers may wonder if they can fire an employee running for political office. The answer to the question depends on what state you are in. Currently 17 states have regulations barring employers from threatening or terminating employees for their desire to run for political office (or other political activities). These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
A case between Marriott Vacations Worldwide and former employee Viviana Janer highlighted the possible pitfalls of this situation. The company acknowledged that the employee was fired because she was running for County Commissioner. The company felt that having an employee in that position could cause a conflict of interest for the company.
There could be both positive and negative impacts of an employee running for political office. For better or worse, what you employees do outside of work can reflect back on your business. That means that if an employee wins the election, they may vote a certain way that could reflect back on your business. There could also be the possibility that other companies or politicians believe that bribes or promises of continued employment could occur if the employee promotes legislation that is favorable to their employer.
The positive impacts could be an increased network for the employee, who then could drive business to your company. Additionally the experience in a political office could enhance the employee’s professional development, making them even more valuable to your company.
Each company should consider the risks on a case-by-case basis and research any state non-discrimination laws prior to making a decision to terminate in such a case. If you have questions about an employee termination, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org