Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other alt-right factions during a “Unite the White” rally near Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park) in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.

Social media users have taken to outing protesters who over the weekend participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that quickly turned violent and raised the national consciousness about the rise of the “alt-right” and racism in the U.S.

In the aftermath of the “Unite the Right” rally and a counterprotest this weekend, at least one of the protesters was fired by his employer, according to reports.

Employment attorneys say the naming of the white nationalist protesters, as well as another recent incident at Google involving a controversial memo on gender and tech, expose difficult legal questions about what kinds of views and speech would be protected and whether workers have standing to sue. There are several issues to consider, including free speech, protected or concerted speech and a private employer’s right to hire and fire workers under federal labor and civil rights laws.

In the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, a California man, Cole White, was identified by Internet users as a participant in the white nationalist rally. His employer, Top Dog, announced he no longer works at the Berkeley restaurant because the management does not support his views.

More firings could follow, as a Twitter page ”Yes You’re Racist” has attempted to name and shame the white nationalists who attended the rally Friday night and Saturday.

This public shaming of those involved in the protest comes shortly after a Google engineer was terminated by the tech giant for a controversial memo that, among other things, decried the company’s diversity efforts and said women were not biologically suited for the technology industry.

Employers trying to decide how to cope with a white supremacist or someone holding other discriminatory views have to consider their jurisdiction and the nature of the employee’s speech and affiliation.

A few local governments maintain protections for employees’ political affiliations, including in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Wisconsin. But political views are not a protected class under federal Title VII civil rights protections, unlike factors such as race, sex or religion.

Government employees do have a right to free speech, but are limited in terms of what they can say in the workplace. Workers at private employers have less leeway under the law to say whatever they please.

“If an employer is watching television news — like what happened [in Charlottesville] — and sees one of his or her employees on either side of the barricades, there is nothing that protects those workers, unless they fall into another protected class,” said Richard Cohen, an employment attorney with FisherBroyles.

But, Cohen said, there may be a loophole for an employee looking to defend their speech, even if it is racist, sexist or discriminatory in another fashion. It could be a stretch to prove, he noted, but such language could be considered defensible under Title VII simply because it has to do with a protected characteristic.

“Whether or not you agree with one or the other or the incident horrified you, it can be argued, at least from a civil rights point of view, it was protected activity,” he said.

He said, on the flip side, an employer could act on an employee taking on discriminatory behavior if the views would be harmful to other workers and constitute a violation of Title VII. He said social media has also broadened this particular debate because employers can now often see the personal views that workers espouse online.

The National Labor Relations Board could also weigh in on this issue and has widened the definition under the Obama administration of what is considered protected activity, said Donald Schroeder, a partner with Foley & Lardner.

He noted a case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in which an employee was fired for making racist comments while on a picket line in Cooper Tire & Rubber v NLRB. An NLRB administrative law judge held that Cooper Tire violated the National Labor Relations Act by terminating the employee for his speech and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.

“The view of protected activity expanded under the Obama administration, particularly regarding social media,” Schroeder said. “That is another consideration to take into account when determining what to do with an employee.”

He said, however, that if a company saw an employee in the workplace or outside it acting in a discriminatory way, there is nothing to prevent the manager from taking steps to terminate employment. The employee would have to argue that it’s a protected racial issue.

“It’s one thing to engage in a peaceful march, it’s another to engage in bottle throwing and a violent march with slurs and vulgar language,” he said. “Could they bring a Title VII case? Sure, but I think it would be extremely difficult to move it forward.”

Employers should be cognizant about whether speech by employees is addressing conditions of work or terms of employment and would be considered “concerted activity,” said Alan Model, a shareholder at Littler Mendelson. Yet, he said the speech also should not interfere with any company harassment policies.

He said he has not seen cases in which an employee has argued that their views as a white nationalist should be protected by federal civil rights laws.

“There is a lot of discussion about political issues and divisiveness going on in the country right now,” Model said. “Employers should be mindful and protect their workplace from a harmful environment.”

Matthew Feery, an employment attorney with Much Shelist in Chicago, said it’s important to note that this is not an “either side” issue for most employers, but rather a clear-cut issue on which there is a right side and a wrong side.

“Apart from the legal issues involved, employers should consider the effect of their decision — or nondecision — on their workforce and business operations,” Feery said. “Employers understandably may decide that the potential liability from termination may be outweighed by the practical effects of retaining the employee in question, especially with respect to employee morale, workplace harmony, and the employer’s reputation.”