From Nava v. Safeway, Inc. (Cal. Ct. App. July 31, 2013), an interesting illustration of what can happen under statutes protecting private employees against employer retaliation based on the employees’ political speech or beliefs:
Defendant Safeway, Inc. …, a large supermarket chain, frequently displayed thematic posters in its stores and distribution centers as a way of promoting a corporate policy of diversity. In June 2009, a new poster entitled “GAY/LESBIAN PRIDE MONTH” was displayed by Safeway in the employee break room of its distribution center in Merced, California, where plaintiff Juan Nava was employed.
Plaintiff was offended by the poster and removed it. When his supervisors confronted him about removing the company poster, plaintiff explained that he disagreed with the poster’s political message. It appeared to plaintiff that Safeway was taking sides in the statewide political debate over same-sex marriage, a matter on which plaintiff had strong convictions. One week after this conversation took place, Safeway terminated plaintiff’s employment….
In 1937, “the California Legislature, recognizing that employers could misuse their economic power to interfere with the political activities of their employees, enacted Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102 to protect the employees’ rights.” Labor Code section 1101 provides: “No employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy: [¶] (a) Forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics …. [or] (b) Controlling or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.” Labor Code section 1102 provides: “No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.” These sections are designed to