Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

States With Pro-Employee Laws: No Firing For Legal Off-Duty Activity

Here in Florida, like many states, you can be fired for pretty much anything as long as it isn't discrimination, whistleblowing, making a worker's comp claim or some other protected activity. That means you can be fired because your boss doesn't like your hobby, your friends, the fact that you prefer whiskey over beer - just about anything they don't like about your non-work activities.

Most states allow this kind of nonsensical firing, and business owners have to pay higher unemployment taxes as a result of other employers' whims. Taxpayers pay the cost too, in higher taxes due to the need for public assistance, healthcare and a whole host of other services. It makes no sense at all.

But some states have seen the light. They have laws that prohibit employers from firing employees for legal off-duty conduct. Do you live in one of these states? Here they are:
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California: CA Labor Code § 96 and 98.6 say no employee  no employee can be discharged or otherwise discriminated against for lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the employer's premises. An employee who is discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, or discriminated against in any manner in the terms and conditions of his or her employment is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits.

Colorado: Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402.5 says it's illegal to fire an employee because that employee
engaged in any lawful activity off the employer's premises during nonworking hours unless the restriction relates to a bona fide occupational requirement or is reasonably and rationally
related to the employment activities and responsibilities of a particular employee or
a particular group of employees; or is necessary to avoid, or avoid the appearance of, a conflict of interest with any of the employee's responsibilities to the employer.

New York: N.Y. Labor Code § 201-d says employers can't make hiring or firing decisions, or otherwise discriminate against an employee or prospective employee because of legal use of consumable products or legal recreational activities outside of work hours, off of the employer's premises, and without use of the employer's equipment or other property.

North Dakota: N.D. Cent. Code § 14-02/4-03 (2003) says it's illegal  for an employer to fail or refuse to hire a person, to discharge an employee, or to treat a person or employee adversely or unequally with respect to application, hiring, training, apprenticeship, tenure, promotion, upgrading, compensation, layoff, or a term, privilege, or condition of employment, because of participation in lawful activity off the employer's premises during nonworking hours which is not in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests of the employer.

Some other states protect employees against firing due to the use of lawful consumable products and others protect only tobacco use. Why not more protection? Do we really need Big Employer monitoring our off-duty activities? If you don't like the thought of being fired because your employer thinks you shouldn't eat meat, shouldn't smoke, shouldn't do yoga, or shouldn't be a furry, then it's time to push for legal change in your state.


  1. I have a question about unfair work practices. My husband works for a very large company that does extremely high volume during the Christmas season. All employees were required to work on Sunday (following a six day work week). They were told that everyone was expected to be there despite the fact that no one had a day off during the week. This morning when they arrived, they were told that they had to sign a document that said they had volunteered to work on Sunday, otherwise they would be sent home. Most of them signed because they were already there and had planned on working today. Are companies allowed to do something like this?

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.