Ban on “Economic Reprisals” Based on the Target’s “Political Activity”

Minn. Stats. Ann. § 10A.36 makes it a gross misdemeanor for “[a]n individual or association” to “engage in economic reprisals or threaten loss of employment or physical coercion against an individual or association because of that individual’s or association’s political contributions or political activity.” There is an exception for “compensation for employment or loss of employment if the political affiliation or viewpoint of the employee is a bona fide occupational qualification of the employment.”

As I read this, the statute criminalizes pretty much any boycott or other economic retaliation against a person because of his “political activity.” Is this a just law? Or should people have the right to take their business elsewhere, whether on their own or together with others, and whether as customers, contractors, or employers, if they disapprove of a person’s political activities?

Should the answer be different when we’re talking about reprisals by customers, vendors, contractors, landlords, or employers? Many states impose such restrictions on employers’ firing employees for certain kinds of political activity, and South Carolina law also bans landlords from evicting their tenants for political activity, but the Minnesota statute is the only I could find that bans “economic reprisals” more broadly. (I set aside the ban on threats of physical coercion, which I think are rightly prohibited.)

I should note that, under NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware (1982), speech encouraging a boycott is protected by the First Amendment. But this law prohibits the actual economic reprisal, not the speech urging it.