Politics in the Private Workplace

Politics in the Private Workplace

09 November 2017

Politics in the Private Workplace – Retaliation – Constructive Discharge – Hostile Environment _ Wrongful Termination – California Labor Code

In 2014, when employees of Mozilla discovered that newly appointed CEO Brendan Eich had been a supporter of California’s Proposition 8, which sought to make gay marriage unconstitutional, they immediately protested. A few days later, Eich resigned his post and left the company.

California Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102 restrict employers from penalizing employees for their political views or activism, or from coercing them in any way in terms of politics. These sections cover political activity such as promoting belief in certain causes and donating to organizations, among many other activities. Generally, an employer cannot fire or harass an employee over these issues.

Although it appears Eich could find protection in the Labor Code from retaliation for his contributions to Prop 8, he could not find protection from the employee uproar that resulted and led to his decision to resign.

It would have been illegal for Mozilla to fire Eich over his political activism. Publicly, the company even stated that it urged Eich to stay in a different role, which he declined to do. Despite the law concerning employer retaliation, it is unclear whether, in private employment, a case can be made for being pressured out of a position by the views of the majority of employees.

(The above is not legal advice and should not be construed as advice for any particular facts or circumstances.)

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