Is it time for a law protecting private-sector employees from discrimination based on political affiliation or political activity outside the workplace? Or is that an exercise in futility?
A group I worked with uncovered a surprising fact during a discussion of mandatory health insurance at an informal lunch with former team mates, after I retired a few years ago. All but one of us were Republicans! And they’d all thought that I (a lifelong conservative) was not.
In a metropolitan area that’s heavily Democrat-leaning, how do people decide whether it’s work-safe to be openly Republican? There is no law in Minnesota (nor in 46 other states) prohibiting private-sector employment discrimination based on political affiliation or activities.
According to workplacefairness.org: A Government / public-sector employer “can, under certain circumstances, be prevented from firing someone based on political speech (because that would constitute the government itself suppressing free speech.) Only a mere handful of states (California, New York, and Washington, DC) have laws specifically making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of an employee's political activity or affiliation, while two more states (Colorado and North Dakota) prohibit discrimination on the basis of "lawful conduct outside of work."”
When it comes to choosing to be politically active, there’s more at risk than failing to be invited back when you’ve breached the simplistic social etiquette rule of “don’t discuss religion, sex or politics at the dinner table”. Disclosing your significant volunteer role for a political party on your resume, having published letters to the editor, or visible social-media comments favorable to candidates or positions may, if your employer or hiring manager so chooses, be part of the hiring / promotion decision for your next job. Or can get you fired.
It’s little wonder that in Minnesota most Republican volunteers are entrepreneurs, self-employed or retired. Others ask to remain anonymous, uncredited and unacknowledged publicly for their support and volunteer efforts.