Ninth Circuit Rejects Employee’s Claim that His Termination Was Politically Motivated

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Ninth Circuit Rejects Employee’s Claim that His Termination Was Politically Motivated

By: Anthony Oceguera

Two California statutes, Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102, are intended to ensure an employee’s political freedom.  These statutes prohibit employers from adopting rules aimed at preventing employees from engaging in politics and make it unlawful for employers to threaten to terminate an employee for their political activity.  However, these laws do not mean employees have a right to pursue their political goals if it interferes with their ability to perform their job.

A recent Ninth Circuit decision, Couch v. Morgan Stanley & Co., upheld Morgan Stanley’s decision to terminate a financial analyst elected to serve in a political position as Kern County’s full-time County Supervisor.  Relying on prior California Court of Appeal decisions, the Ninth Circuit stated that the California laws protecting political freedom are only violated if an employer fires an employee based on a political motive.  The Ninth Circuit held that Morgan Stanley had a legitimate, apolitical reason for terminating the plaintiff.  The plaintiff could not work as both a full-time financial analyst for Morgan Stanley and as a full-time Supervisor.  Morgan Stanley was entitled to take the position that the plaintiff could not devote sufficient time to his clients while simultaneously employed as a full-time Supervisor.


The right to engage in political activity is a fundamental liberty in our society and under California law employers are prohibited from taking action or adopting rules intended to interfere with an employee’s right to engage in political activity.  But that does not mean that employers cannot require that its employees refrain from political activity if it would legitimately interfere with the employees’ ability to perform their job.  Employers who are concerned that an employee’s engagement in political activity is interfering with their ability to do their job should contact the Saqui Law Group to discuss their legal options. 

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