As the election rhetoric heats up, it’s only natural that some employees will get heated up about their choices. That’s OK, but there are rules and laws that restrict political speech and activities – by employees and employers.
- First and foremost, lawmakers recognize that a company’s first concern is running a business without interference caused by politics. With that in mind, you have every right to restrict discussions and other expressions (such as signs or campaign buttons) if you feel they’re harmful to conducting business and keeping harmony in the workplace.
- Some states – such as California, Mississippi, Missouri and New York – have laws that bar employers from penalizing employees for their outside political activities. For instance, one case involved an employer who tried to force an employee to remove a political bumper sticker because the employee’s vehicle was parked in a company lot.
- Be careful of state laws that bar employers from making political appeals to employees. Arizona, for one, has a law that prohibits the distribution of paychecks in envelopes bearing political messages, and Pennsylvania courts have penalized employers that warned employees of potential job losses if a certain candidate were elected.
- If you have policies about restricting political speech or activity in the workplace, be sure to: (a) distribute copies of the policy to all employees, (b) enforce the policies equally, without regard to political viewpoint, and (c) respond promptly to complaints about managers or co-workers retaliating against or harassing employees based upon political affiliation or beliefs.