Thursday, April 10, 2014

Brendan Eich, a political rights expansion of the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act...and everybody else

The whole issue of political activity by employees of private organizations is broader than California Proposition 8...or Brendan Eich...or Mozilla...or California law.

At least two writers, Jamelle Bouie and Rod Dreher, believe that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a possible solution to the problem. If you want to prevent Brendan Eich - or anyone - from being fired because of their political activity, then this may be the solution. Dreher wrote:

I would support a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, protecting gay and lesbian employees from being fired over their sexual orientation. I say “a version,” because I would want strong, clear carve-outs for companies and organizations for whom the sexuality of the employee is directly related to the organization’s ability to carry out its mission. (Similarly, I would want a group like the Metropolitan Community Church or the Human Rights Campaign to be able to dismiss an employee whose stated views against same-sex marriage directly affected their missions. The point is, I believe it’s wrong to fire an employee simply because he or she is gay or lesbian, and as long as a few conditions are met, should be illegal. We could have a federal labor law protecting the right of employees to off-the-job political speech, but that wouldn’t protect any employee from the force of boycotts and witch-hunting. Remember, the Hollywood blacklist was not imposed by the government, but by studio heads. This is about culture.

While the Employment Non-Discrimination Act does not specifically address "protecting the right of employees to off-the-job political speech," it could conceivably be expanded to protect such rights. After all, California workers, unlike Florida workers, are protected from losing their jobs because of off-the-job political speech. (Well, theoretically.)

Federal protection for private company employees from firing for off-the-job political activity would address numerous concerns. It would address the concerns of those who believe that Brendan Eich should be able to donate to Proposition 8 and be CEO of Mozilla. It would address the concerns of those who believe that Michael Italie should be able to campaign for mayor of Miami on the Socialist Workers Party ticket and work for Goodwill.

But Dreher raises a point - there may need to be some exceptions to the rule. Using one of his examples, would it be appropriate for Brendan Eich to be an employee of the Metropolitan Community Church?

And there are other examples.

Would it be appropriate for someone to be an employee of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod or the Roman Catholic Church who politically supports an end to gender discrimination in all employment, including the pastorate/priesthood?

Would it be appropriate for someone to be an employee of PETA who owns a cosmetic company? Or who owns stock in a cosmetic company? Or who buys cosmetics?

And could Goodwill/Mozilla argue that it is entirely appropriate to require that employees be "American"/"gay friendly," and that they should therefore be excluded from the proposed act?

Unless these questions can be adequately addressed, the message is clear - people should NOT engage in political activity.

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