May an employee be dismissed for being a member of an extreme political party?

Author: William Denham, Shortt & Nguyen, PC

Yes. An employer in the private sector may usually dismiss an employee for being a member of an extreme political party. An employee in the private sector has no First Amendment rights to freely join any political party, particularly when that membership creates tangible disruptions in the workplace. However, some state or local laws may provide more extensive protections than the First Amendment, so an employer should be sure to check the relevant state law.

An employer in the public sector (e.g., a governmental entity) may usually not dismiss an employee for being a member of an extreme political party. When the government acts as an employer, it may not restrict an employee's political beliefs (i.e., thoughts), so long as the employee:

  • Is not a policy-maker;
  • Does not hold a confidential position; and
  • Does not allow the political affiliation to interfere with work or the workplace.

Both public and private employers may seek to create a political activity policy to address this issue.