This past week, after the election of Donald Trump as our nation’s president was announced, the CEO of GrubHub, a nationwide food delivery service, sent an email to all of his employees that stated the following:
I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can. . . . If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.
While this email doesn’t explicitly state that all Trump supporters will be fired or forced to resign, it does at least raise the prospect that Trump supporters are not welcome and should go ahead and resign. Such an interpretation is reinforced by the fact that the company was forced almost immediately to release a statement to walk back the CEO’s comments and reassure its employees that GrubHub does “not discriminate on the basis of someone’s principles, or political or other beliefs.”
Regardless of what the CEO’s initial email intended to convey, it still opens the door for an employee who gets terminated in the coming weeks or months to claim that he or she was terminated for voting for Mr. Trump. But the real question is whether such a termination, based on how an employee votes, is illegal. More specifically (since I practice law in South Carolina), is it illegal in South Carolina?
The answer: yes. While South Carolina is an “at-will” employment state where you can be terminated for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all, there are a few exceptions to that rule. One such exception is found in S.C. Code Section 16-17-560, which states that “[i]t is unlawful for a person to . . . discharge a citizen from employment or occupation . . . because of political opinions or the exercise of political rights and privileges guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution and laws of the United States or by the Constitution and laws of this State.” In essence, if you are voting during an election, regardless of whom you are voting for, then you are exercising a political right and expressing a political opinion in a manner that is provided for and protected under the Constitution.
So if an employee can prove that his or her exercise of a political right (i.e., voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or any other candidate) was the basis for termination, then that employee has a solid wrongful termination case. And by issuing that email, GrubHub just handed Exhibit A to an employee for use at trial.
If you’ve been discriminated against for exercising your political rights, you need to speak with an experienced employment attorney right away for a full review of your case. Give our office a call at (864) 233-4351 or contact our employment attorneys directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.