With the recent hate rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, still on everyone’s minds, employers are wondering about how this affects them and their businesses as a whole. Businesses tend to hire workers who have the same values as the company. So what happens when a business is associated with having racist white supremacist as an employee?
Many Americans are trying their best to stomp out hate and promote equality, and may not wish to do business with a company that appears to promote a racist agenda. What can employers do if they find out an employee took place in the hate rally or other controversial event? What are their rights under employment law?
Illinois—like most other states—is an employment at-will state. Therefore, employers can, for the most part, fire someone for any cause as long as it does not violate the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means that an employee cannot be fired based on reasons related to age, religion, race, color or gender.
Hate groups do not fall under any of those categories, although members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) have challenged that the KKK should be considered a religion. The courts have rejected that claim.
Even if the employee participates in hate rallies outside of work, participation can still affect workplace morale. For example, many photos of the Charlottesville hate rally circulated the internet. Many people posted them on social media. Should co-workers see these photos, they will likely be circulated around the office. This can cause tension and bad feelings.
The law is not clear-cut, however. There are no specific laws allowing an employer to terminate employment for offensive behavior outside of the workplace. Therefore, it is best for employers to look at each case individually and seek legal help to determine their rights.
As an employer, it’s important to make sure you fire employees for the right reasons. While you cannot fire employees for reason such as age, gender and religion, you can make firing decisions based on an employee’s off duty activities that are controversial in nature.
If you have an employee engaging in agendas that promote hate and violence, you may be concerned about how this will project onto your business. These situations need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, so don’t make any decisions until you first contact Goldman & Ehrlich for help. Call us at (312) 332-6733 or complete our online contact form.