Political Views in the Workplace: An Employers Guide

There is an old saying that there should never be any discussion of politics or religion inside a bar, with today’s political climate the workplace should be added to that list. Democrat or Republican, Trump supporter or not, the mere mention of the subject of politics is an argument just waiting to happen that can and will affect your business. Never before has our country been so divided and willing to voice opinions both verbally and physically. Protesting in the streets, social media rants and full blown physical altercations have become just another part of the news feed on a daily basis in the U.S., and if allowed, you would be wise to realize the same can be expected in your workplace.

What Are My Rights as an Employer?

These radical opposing political viewpoints can create conflict and disruption among employees and disrupt the workplace and thus impact production, sales etc.. Any HR department or management staffer should know that as with any other workplace conflict, employers should attempt to treat all employees’ opinions with respect.  However, there is no constitutional guarantee of free speech in a private workplace. What does this mean for employers? Private employers may stop or prohibit political discussions if employees’ differing viewpoints take the form of disparaging the political opinions of other employees, and there is no law prohibiting employers from disciplining employees simply for discussing politics in the workplace. This gives an employer an immense amount of power and control over what goes on in their place of business.

Employers should be mindful, however, that some forms of political discussion may constitute protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  For example, if an employee states that he supports Trump because he believes that Trump’s policies will result in better pay and better leave policies at their place of employment, that speech would be protected concerted activity.  According to the NLRA, activity is “concerted” if it is engaged in with or on the authority of other employees, not solely by and on behalf of the employee himself.  It includes circumstances where a single employee seeks to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, as well as where an employee brings a group complaint to the attention of management. Activity is “protected” if it concerns employees’ interests as employees, although the otherwise protected concerted activity may lose the NLRA’s protection if the employee is engaged in workplace misconduct.

This protection provided by the NLRA for the employee’s concerted activity extends to social media posts.  As we all know, many people make statements on social media which they likely would not make in the workplace. A true professional should know that this is a bad idea as employers have the ability to look-up social media accounts for all their employees, but for some reason, employees continue to use their personal social media platforms as a soapbox and will make statements and posts that are inappropriate in the workplace. However, if employees are engaged in political discussion on Facebook, Twitter or other social platforms as it applies with respect to their pay and/or working conditions, employers should be conscience and careful before disciplining employees.

Respect of all their employee’s beliefs and rights is, as it should be, a major concern of all employers. But in the current political climate that seems to shake our America to it’s core, an employer has to make decisions on just what the line is, and when an employee has crossed it, thus warranting corrective action and possible termination. As with all workplace conduct, employers should set reasonable expectations and policies that set a tone of respect and reason for all their employees and their workplace environment.

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Whether you are entering the job market for the first time or were recently terminated, it is important to understand your rights as a worker. Both federal and state governments have enacted a wide range of employment laws protecting employees from discriminatory treatment, unfair labor practices, unsafe work conditions, and more. This section provides in-depth resources on all phases of the employment process — from the interview and hiring stage to promotion and termination. In addition, you’ll find information about privacy in the workplace, wage and hour laws, workplace safety and family leave policies.

Employment law governs the rights and responsibilities between employers and employees. Most of the laws and statutes that fall under employee law are meant to protect the employee from unfair and unsafe working conditions, but they also help to protect employers.

One large section of employment law deals with the “At Will” Presumption. In nearly every state in the US, it is presumed that both employer and employee are working together voluntarily, and can terminate their working relationship at any time, and for almost any reason.

Working environments can be chaotic and complex. The law offices of Jones Brown wants to make sure you are aware of your rights as an employee or employer. If you feel you have been wrongfully treated at work or on a job, our experienced attorneys know exactly what to do. CLICK HERE to contact the Jones Brown Employment Law division.





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