MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At least three men lost their jobs after attending last weekend’s “pro-white” rally in Virginia. Two were fired and one said he quit.
We all know our speech is protected, but what about our employment? Can you be fired for your beliefs?
“If you’re a private employee, the answer is yes,” said Larry Schaefer, a Minneapolis employment law attorney. “I’ve always told my clients you have to be very careful.”
Minnesota, like most states, is an at-will employment state. That means as long as an employer does not violate a statue or common law, an employee can be fired for any reason.
“I don’t like the color of your shirt, the color of the tie you’re wearing,” Schaefer said. “Or, in a more likely scenario, an employer doesn’t like an employee’s political points of view.”
Employers, though, cannot discriminate based on a person’s characteristics: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender or religion.
Political beliefs are not considered one of those protected classes.
“We have a First Amendment right to have our government not infringe on our freedom of expression,” Schaefer said. “We don’t have a First Amendment right to not allow private companies, other citizens to tell us what we can or can’t say.”
Schaefer says public sector employees would have more job protection.
“You have to be careful about what activity you engage in, even as a private citizen, because it can affect your employment,” he said.