Mozilla CEO’s Termination: What Does CA Employment Law Say?

Brendan Eich was named the CEO of Mozilla, a company he had been involved with since its conception. Shortly after he took the position, however, he was forced to resign. The reason for this was public outcry over a political donation that he made six years ago.  In 2008, Eich had donated $1,000 to support California’s Proposition 8, which would have banned same sex marriage in the state. Although the proposition was approved by a majority of voters in the state, a federal district court invalidated it. rainbow-flag-1392509-m

The forced resignation has sparked a lot of controversy, with some saying that it was right to force Eich to step down because of beliefs considered “bigoted” while others arguing that it is wrong for someone to be terminated because of his political beliefs.  While this is a question that can be debated in the public sphere, the reality is that California Labor Laws have already settled the question.   The law protects employees from being fired for donating money to a political campaign, and if you are terminated because of a donation you made, you can contact an Orange County employment lawyer for help taking legal action against your employer for the labor law violation.

Protection for Political Advocacy

California Labor Code section 1101-1102 address the question of whether an employer can discriminate against an employee on the basis of political beliefs or political action.

According to section 1101, employers are prohibited from making, adopting or enforcing any rule, regulation or policy that would either forbid or prevent an employee from becoming a candidate for public office or participating in/engaging in politics.  This same provision of the Labor Code also precludes employers from controlling, directing, or trying to control or direct the political activities or the political affiliations of employees.

Section 1102 addresses coercion or attempts on the part of employers to influence the political activities of their workers.  This labor code section prohibits employers from coercing or influencing (or attempting to coerce or influence) workers to follow a particular line of political action or follow a particular course in a political activity. Employers may not use threats of discharge or loss of employment, nor any other means, to coerce the political activities of their workers.

Donating money to support a ballot proposition or any other type of political cause is clearly a form of political participation.  As such, employers should not be able to fire workers or force their termination for donations.

The courts in California have also ruled in the past that beliefs about homosexuality were also a form of protected conduct. In a case called Gay Law Students Association v. Pac. Tel. & Tel. Co. , the court determined that terminating an employee for defending homosexuality was a form of illegal political discrimination.  As such, it seems that the converse would also be true and terminating an employee for speaking up against homosexual marriage would also be a form of political discrimination.

Understanding these laws are important, as employers who want to create a culture of tolerance in the workplace need to ensure that they do not end up breaking the law by punishing an employee for protected beliefs, even if those beliefs are not something that the employer agrees with.

Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 949.375.4734.

More Blog Entries:

California Worker Wins Wrongful Termination Lawsuit, January 1, 2014, Los Angeles Employment Lawyer Blog

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