In today’s politically charged environment it seems that everyone has an opinion to post on their social media. But when opinions clash, when can an employee’s post become a fireable offense?
In Illinois, there are only a few very narrow protections for employees—so, for the most part, any kind of posting can be a reason for termination, unless it meets one of these exceptions:
1. The post is directly related to voting
Under 10 ILCS 5/29-17, it is illegal for an employer to attempt to prohibit an employee from voting, or to coerce their vote in one way or another. If an employee is posting political content directly related to showing up at the polls, the employer may be acting illegally in disciplining that employee.
2. The employer has been gathering political content in the employee’s file
The Personnel Records Review Act prohibits employers from gathering or keeping a record of an employee’s political associations, activities, and publications—so if an employer is keeping printouts of employees’ political posts in personnel files, it would be engaging in an illegal activity.
3. What about my first amendment right to freedom of speech?
The constitutional right of free speech is often misunderstood. In fact, the first amendment only applies to the government—so, private entities can restrict free speech in any way they see fit. Therefore, unless the employer is a government entity, and even then there are exceptions, an employee can be disciplined for any speech or conduct that violates the employer’s policy.
If you have questions about how political content affects your workplace, contact us for a free, 30-minute consultation with an employment lawyer.