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Employee Off-Duty Behavior Laws by State

Author: Brightmine Editorial Team

An employer seeking to control an employee's conduct outside of the workplace should check state and local laws before engaging in employee discipline or implementing an off-duty conduct policy. A number of states protect employees who engage in various lawful behaviors outside of work. Specifically, certain states protect employees who:

  • Smoke or drink outside of working hours;
  • Engage in various political activities; or
  • Volunteer in certain civic organizations.

Generally, state law protections address lawful behavior while off duty. However, these laws also detail exceptions, such as the circumstances under which an employer may restrict an employee's off-duty behavior.

The following chart lists state laws addressing employee off-duty conduct. The state name links to the relevant Employee Discipline state-specific section, which contains more detailed information and statutory authority. Information on provisions that deal with off-duty activities for which leave or time off is provided by state law (e.g., civil air patrol leave, voting leave or time off to serve as an elected official), can be found in Other Leaves. Practical information on discrimination and off-duty conduct is also available in state-specific content in Discrimination and Recruiting.

This chart features states with laws that apply in some way to private employers. States that either have no requirement or have a requirement that is limited to public employers are marked N/A.

While federal law does not include explicit protections for lawful off-duty conduct by employees, please note that certain laws may protect certain off-duty behaviors. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) may protect some off-duty behavior by employees, if the behavior is a protected, concerted activity. Federal equal employment opportunity laws (e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) may protect certain political beliefs or affiliations if related to a protected characteristic under federal law (e.g., race or religion).