Political Discrimination

What is Political Discrimination?

Political discrimination occurs when an individual receives negative and unfair treatment due to their political, economic or social beliefs.  The federal government provides protections to protected classes, such as religious affiliations, race, sex and national origin, among other statuses.  Political beliefs, however, do not fall into a protected class.  While the First Amendment provides public employees with protection from political discrimination by government employers, those employed by private employers in New York must seek protection against political discrimination from state statutes.  

What are Some Examples of Political Discrimination?

Examples of political discrimination include:

  • Firing an employee who voted for a political candidate that the employer did not vote for;
  • Suspending an employee for attending a gun control rally during non-work hours; or
  • Not hiring a qualified candidate because the candidate does not share the same political ideologies as the employer.

New York offers broad protections against political discrimination, and it is important for employees in the state to understand what rights they have.  

Can Employers Discriminate Based on Political Beliefs? 

Generally, New York law prevents employers from discriminating against their employees for political conduct that occurs during non-work hours, is not located on the employer’s premises, and does not use the employer’s equipment or other property.  Protected political activities include running for public office, participating in political fundraising, or campaigning for a public office candidate.

However, New York does provide exceptions to its political discrimination protections.  Under these exceptions, an employer is allowed to:  

  • Take action to prohibit political activities if the activities materially conflict with the employer’s business interests;
  • In some circumstances, restrict an employee’s ability to participate in paid political activities if it conflicts with the employee’s contractual obligation to work full-time;  
  • Contractually limit an employee’s political activities, but only if the employee is providing unique services and those political activities may diminish the value of those unique services.

Though New York does offer protections against political discrimination, the state does not provide protection for discrimination against political beliefs or mere expressions of political views that are shared in a work setting by an employee.  For example, an employee who consistently expresses their views on immigration every time they engage in discussions by the water cooler is not protected. 

Choosing the Right Political Discrimination Attorney in New York

New York has broad yet precise political discrimination protections in place, and it is important to find an attorney who can guide you through the process.  Political discrimination can be very fact specific, and the right attorney can assist with resolving those issues efficiently.  Whether you are a New York employee or employer, an attorney can ensure that an employee’s political rights are protected and that an employer is in compliance with New York’s political discrimination statutes.

Romano Law can provide guidance on political discrimination disputes in New York, California and Florida.


Photo by Mike Rasching on Unsplash


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