Can your boss move you to the far side of the office just because your bumper sticker is different from hers? Could you find yourself left out of meetings, looked over for promotions, or even fired for rooting for the other team?
Well, the answer depends on your employee handbook and on the nature of your employment. Federal law says that you can sue for political discrimination just as you can sue for racial or gender discrimination. However, that political discrimination law only applies to public employees. While a few states also ban political discrimination, Massachusetts is not one of them.
When you’re at work you are at the mercy of your boss and subject to your company’s handbook. From the boss’s point of view, he has the right to run his business the way he sees fit, unless there’s a law against it. There’s simply no law against political discrimination in Massachusetts, and hostile work environment lawsuits have to be based on recognized discrimination.
So what can you do?
Try to stay out of it. There are only a few questions that your employer can force you to answer, and your political stance isn’t one of them. So you could relax, let the political talk happen, and keep quiet. If a co-worker tries to set you off by raising a particularly debatable issue, it might be a good idea to leave him hanging and move on with your work.
Don’t take it too seriously. Your employer probably doesn’t want to replace you, so don’t give her a reason to. If you can hold back the urge to spar with your co-workers, and just roll with the punches, and you’ll be that much less likely to have a problem.
Follow the employee handbook. Most handbooks ban any activity that stops work from getting done. So just try to keep from distracting your co-workers, and if they are causing a distraction, then it’s usually in your employer’s best interest to put an end to it. You should watch out for rules in your handbook that say you can’t express certain ideas. Again, these are usually legal, and it’s important to follow the rules your employer makes for you.
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