Political Conversations in the Workplace

In case you haven’t been reading the news, or watching tv, or listening to the radio, or checking your Social Media account, this is an election year.  As such, a political conversation will inevitably arise at work.
Political rights and free speech are not absolute in the workplace.  Employers, particularly in Florida, are guaranteed the right to discipline or even terminate employees for being disruptive or unproductive.  However, there are certain types of political activities that are protected.
While no federal or state law protects from discrimination based on “political views or affiliation,” there are still some already existing protections that may apply.

  1. Your supervisor makes discriminatory remarks about the race or gender of a particular candidate, and you report these comments.

You are protected from retaliation under Florida and US law.  Discriminatory statements, comments, or jokes are detrimental to harmony in the workplace, whether they are politically motivated or not.  If an employee is terminated for reporting such activity, he/she is guaranteed protection under state and federal law and the employer may be found liable for wrongful termination.

  1. Your employer fires you for voting for a particular candidate, or for not voting at all.

This is a felony under Florida § 104.081 “It is unlawful for any person having one or more persons in his or her service as employees to discharge or threaten to discharge any employee in his or her service for voting or not voting in any election, state, county, or municipal, for any candidate or measure submitted to a vote of the people. Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony of the third degree.”

  1. You request time off work to go to the voting precinct on Election Day, and your employer denies your request.

Florida has no laws governing requests for time off to vote.  Municipal and local ordinances vary depending on the jurisdiction.  However, the State of Florida grants county Supervisors of Election broad authority in coordinating early voting times and locations.  These first voting locations are generally open for at least a week before Election Day and include weekends.  Check with your local Supervisor of Elections for more details regarding early or absentee voting.

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