If you learned that one of your employees was in a hate group or participated in hate group activities outside of the workplace, would you have grounds to terminate their employment?
It’s a very sticky scenario and should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and only after seeking both HR and legal advice.
There are no federal laws protecting hate groups, such as white nationalists, and these groups are not protected or accommodated under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Courts have rejected the supposition that groups such as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) are considered religions, and therefore are not protected under the law. And as far as the First Amendment’s protections go, they only apply to the government and not private-employers.
In some states, employers are prohibited from taking action against these employees and it can be considered discrimination if the employee was participating in off-duty activities, such as rallies.
It’s a risky proposition to fire someone just because of their beliefs; however, the employer must take into consideration how the employee performs and behaves in the workplace. Their oppositional beliefs outside the workplace may bleed over into their ability to work cohesively with others, creating tension, hostility and may lead to harassment – which is illegal.
Weigh the risks. See guidance. And make sure your company policies and handbooks are up-to-date and site all the federal and state regulations related to anti-harassment and discrimination.