With the Occupy Wall Street protests spreading to dozens of U.S. cities, you may be faced with workers who join in such activities, whether in person or via social media. How should you respond?
First, don’t fire out of anger. Employees’ participation in protests and rallies could be considered a legally protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. Even if your organization isn’t unionized, employees have the right to engage in “concerted activities,” including political protests that have a connection to workplace issues. That means firing (or threatening to fire) employees who took the day off could possibly be deemed an unfair labor practice.
What if workers protest after-hours? About half the states have laws that make it unlawful to fire or discipline workers who engage in legal off-duty activities, such as political protests.
The bottom line: According to the employer-side law firm Foley & Lardner, “An employer that reflexively terminates or disciplines employees for supporting or participating in the activities of the Occupy Wall Street movement may eventually find itself on the short end of a legal stick.”