Most of you know that employees are generally “at will”, meaning you can hire/fire an employee at your discretion. Except, of course, you cannot fire someone “because” they were too old, too pregnant, too… you get the idea, in a protected class. Likewise, you generally can’t fire someone for exercising their Constitutional right of free speech on their own time. This includes their right to support any political candidate of their liking.
If you fire me simply because I support a political candidate that you don’t like, I can sue you for retaliation.
Is it wrong, however, for you to fire me because you thought I supported a particular candidate, when, in fact, I didn’t support that candidate at all? Is that still unlawful retaliation?
Yep, you guessed it — yes, oh yes it can be. The retaliation in your blackened heart alone was apparently the problem, according to this one court. That you could also be sorely mistaken just makes you both wrong and evil.
This is not the consensus view across the country, mind you. But it should give you pause. If you’re going to discharge an otherwise good employee over something that has nothing to do with the workplace or job performance, whether or not you could be sued for wrongful retaliation shouldn’t be your threshold. Whether you’re making a bad business decision in the heat of the moment should be your threshold.