Facebook gives employees time off to join May 1 anti-Trump immigration protest

Facebook will not penalize employees who choose to take time off on May 1 to attend a protest against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The social media giant has also said it will investigate any contractors on its Menlo Park campus near the Bay area in California who do not allow their employees to attend the protest as well.

“At Facebook, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and speaking up,” a spokesman wrote to Bloomberg in an emailed statement. “We support our people in recognizing International Workers’ Day and other efforts to raise awareness for safe and equitable employment conditions.”

Facebook notified its employees of this policy change on an internal forum on April 14, saying that workers did not have to notify the company ahead of time in order to take time off to attend the protest. It has also threatened to “re-evaluate ties” to any vendor that breaks the law in disallowing their employees to leave work to protest.

California Labor Code 1102 prohibits companies for firing or punishing an employee for participating in a politically driven protest. However it does not protect employees from being terminated or punished for missing work to attend these protests.

“It’s important not just to the engineers and H-1B holders that are traditionally thought of as the immigrants in tech but also to folks who are subcontracted but work side-by-side on those campuses,” said Derecka Mehrens, co-founder of Silicon Valley Rising, a union-backed coalition. “Immigrants play a critical role in the tech sector — both as engineers and coders but also in keeping tech campuses running smoothly.”

Silicon Valley Rising has been spearheading a movement to get tech companies to publicly show more support for the immigrant employees. Employee delegations sent by Silicon Valley Rising have visited 20 different businesses so far, including Google, to demand that their workers be allowed to leave work and participate the in May 1 protest.

While some of these tech companies may fold under the pressure of publicly supporting the goals of union-backed coalitions, one expert believes that some will not become so vocal in their support of these protests. They’re uneasy about upsetting Trump, and losing lucrative government contracts.

Employers across industries are in a tricky position, said Peter Cappelli, a management professor who directs the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s business school. They’re navigating conflicting concerns, including the need to compete for liberal employees and customers, and the desire to secure pro-business policy changes and lucrative government contracts. CEOs of companies like Uber Technologies Inc., Walt Disney Co. and IBM joined Trump’s business advisory council, only to find themselves the targets of protests, including from their own staff.

“They are making calculated economic decisions based on their stakeholders,” said Cappelli, and not many will opt to aggressively antagonize the president. “For the most part, they’re going to duck it.”