This November we will elect our 45th President of the United States. Nothing can create tension in the workplace like partisan politics. Fortunately, this is not our first rodeo. We’ve all been here before. But now is a good time to remind managers, supervisors and employees what is allowed and not allowed in the office.
To begin with there are laws that protect employees rights when it comes to voicing their political views. Interesting enough the First Amendment does not protect the political speech of employees at private employers. (Public employers and employees have different rules.)
Private employers and the political speech of their workers is governed mostly by the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA protects some politically charged speech on the job such as discussions about changes to conditions in the workplace. Examples of these discussions could be minimum wage, healthcare, and parental leave.
Adam Bridgers of Fisher & Phillips has published a list of ten tips to help employers and employees get through this year’s election cycle.
- Encourage your employees to vote, but where possible, remain neutral. Voting is a good thing.
- Avoid inappropriate comments and jokes about political views. These can make certain employees feel singled out.
- Remind employees of your harassment, discrimination, and equal employment opportunity polices and retrain them if necessary. If you do not have these policies, get them!
- If you do not have one, consider adding a company “Code of Conduct.” It should outline your expectations that all employees will treat each other with dignity and will respect differences in opinions.
- Consider amending your dress code policies to cover political apparel.
- Limit employee solicitations in general to nonworking time and distributions to nonworking areas.
- Limit employees’ use of email and restrict access to certain Internet and social media sites. Your electronic policy should advise employees that they should only use the company’s information systems for business-related purposes and that all activities will be monitored.
- Deal with any productivity issues created by political discussions rather than the specific content underlying the speech, and make sure you are consistently applying these standards.
- Thoroughly and quickly investigate any allegation of bullying or harassment.
- Before disciplining an employee for political expression, check to see if the political expression is concerted protected activity; if the manner of expression is protected; and whether your policies, as previously applied, allow you to discipline the employee.
- Always check with counsel before implementing any plan or policy curbing political speech or before taking adverse action against an employee because of political speech or expression.