Fired for Protesting? H.R. Expert Discusses Your Right to Rally on the Job

Google recently fired 50 employees following their in-office protest of the tech giant’s contract with Israel.

Meanwhile, college staff across the country have faced arrest, dismissal, and even campus bans due to their involvement in pro-Palestine protests.

The situation has raised tricky H.R. questions for employers nationwide: At what point is activism grounds for termination?

“While many people have decried Google’s decision to fire their employees, the reality is that private companies do not have to honor the First Amendment,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA, an employment solutions firm with locations across the country.

Wilson says that unless you are a government employee, you can be terminated for virtually any reason, including participating in protests.

“There are a few exceptions to this, such as if you are under contract or part of a collective bargaining agreement,” says Wilson. “These situations offer some protections, but if you are an ‘at will’ employee, you’re out of luck.”

However, Wilson urges that employers proceed with extreme caution around this issue.

“Google employees were protesting in-office and on the clock,” says Wilson. “This made the situation untenable. But if protesting happens away from the job and when an employee isn’t working, it doesn’t need to interfere with their role at your company.”

However, says Wilson, employees and college students should try to protect their future.

“You can express your beliefs without breaking the law or harming your career stability,” says Wilson. “Remember everything you do at these protests could wind up being filmed and living online forever.”

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