Workplace discrimination is not only disheartening but also illegal. Employees in Indiana and many other states across the country face discriminatory behavior every day, whether related to race, age, sex, gender, or any other category protected in the law.
While many Indiana employers have antidiscrimination laws set up, you would be surprised to realize that your employer can discriminate and fire you based on your political beliefs. With the help of a wrongful termination attorney at Beeman Heifner Benge P.A., you can pursue your discrimination claim in court if it fails to be resolved by the relevant agency.
Do Federal Laws Protect My Job Against Political Discrimination?
Unfortunately, not all forms of discrimination are deemed to be illegal. While it is illegal for employers to make job decisions against employees based on color, race, religion, sex, or national origin, political beliefs are not covered by federal or Indiana labor laws. This means employers can make job decisions based on employee political beliefs and/or views.
But What About Free Speech?
The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to free speech. However, this does not always mean you can say whatever you want, whenever you want. It only prevents the government from taking any action that can potentially suppress free speech. Unfortunately, The First Amendment does not protect an employee from losing his or her job over political beliefs.
It is also important to note that the First Amendment only protects the political views of those with public employers (those working to provide governmental services, such as a school) and does not protect private employees (anyone not working in the public sector). So, if your employer is part of the federal, state, or local government, you are protected and can file a claim if your employment is terminated based on political beliefs.
Private employees do not always enjoy this right in many jurisdictions, including Indiana. If you are a Democrat with a private employer, for instance, there exists no federal law that will stop your Republican boss from firing you based on your political views.
Unfortunately, most private employees have at-will relationships with their employers, which often complicate matters even further. This often means being fired without warning and for no reason.
How Could Political Beliefs Lead to Termination?
If you are calling out harassment, bullying, or communicating about the existing working conditions, you should not be fired. However, if you are engaged in political activities which are unrelated to work conditions and reflect poorly on your employer, then your work termination could be legal. If you harass other people who do not share your political beliefs, especially if they include co-workers, you could end up getting fired.
A mere political view that states your preferred candidate or political party should not be cause for termination. If you think you were wrongly terminated in Indiana for sharing your political preferences, consult with an employment attorney to review your case.
Can Political Discrimination Be Linked to Other Grounds for a Lawsuit?
Even without an employee protection law in Indiana guarding against political discrimination, you may still have a potential claim if you were fired contrary to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Indiana antidiscrimination statute.
For instance, if LGBTQ+ employees are fired for attending a rally that advocated for their rights, but other employees with a different sexual orientation are not fired for attending marches, then this could qualify as illegal discrimination against sex. In this case, one could argue that this employer used politics as a pretext for sex discrimination.
Current Discrimination Grounds in Indiana
In Indiana, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee based on color, race, religion, sex, ancestry, veteran status, disability (either physical or mental), conviction record or sealed arrest, off duty tobacco usage, and age.
Can I Be Fired for Attending a Political Protest?
Workplace challenges can cause employees to engage in strikes, walkouts, and absences. However, an employer cannot fire you if there was not an existing policy that forbade your absence at work in case it was not politically driven.
How Can I File an Employment Discrimination Claim in Indiana?
In Indiana, you can file a discrimination claim with two agencies, either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at the federal level or the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) at the state level. Both agencies work in tandem to process claims.
If your workplace only has a handful of employees (14 or under), then you should file with the ICRC, since EEOC only covers employers with over 15 employees.
If I am Fired, Do I Have Time Limits in Which I Must File?
If you believe you were discriminated against and fired based on your political beliefs, do not delay contacting either ICRC or EEOC. You only have 180 days to file with the state agency from the date you believe you were discriminated and 300 days to file with the federal agency. If possible, consult with an Indiana employment attorney before filing.
Protect Your Rights in Your Indiana Employment Discrimination Case
If your employer has a case against you based on your political beliefs, get to know what your employer can and cannot do. The first step you could take is understanding the company’s policy on employee conduct.
If you have already been fired or think you could be soon, consider talking with an experienced employment lawyer to help you understand your situation. Your lawyer can help protect you and help you understand what can strengthen your claims against your employer.
At Beeman Heifner Benge P.A, we are committed to protecting employee rights in Indiana. We continue to work with employees across Indiana in employment issues, discrimination claims, and wrongful termination cases. Call us at (765) 734-9091 to schedule a free consultation and allow us to review your case in detail.