As if the constant barrage of television ads from political action committees and candidates were not enough, I thought I would take the opportunity to remind everyone that the midterm elections are coming up on Tuesday, November 8th!
No, this will not be a blog about politics—the political dialogue is best left for conversations with family and friends. However, you may find yourself refereeing edgy workplace political discussions that have moved beyond a friendly dialogue. We seem to be living in a time of unprecedented political divide, which can present new and unusual challenges for HR professionals.
There are a variety of approaches to addressing the discussion of politics in the workplace. Most experts do not endorse the prohibition of this type of interaction but do suggest setting boundaries similar to those we generally associate with anti-bullying policies:
- Name-calling is not tolerated.
- Ensure that employees treat one another, and their opinions and ideas, with respect and courtesy.
- Be clear regarding the consequences of not abiding by these rules.
- Be respectful of others who state they do not wish to engage in a political discussion.
Employers who decide to implement a total ban on political discussion should be mindful that the prohibition does not cross the line protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. The Act covers concerted, protected activity related to the terms and conditions of employment and could include discussion related to immigration, wage and hour laws, and other related topics. Employers should also remember the protections that many states have in place for legal off-duty conduct, which could include such activities as attending political rallies or publicly advocating for certain candidates.
In preparation for the November 8th elections, a brief reminder of the state laws on employer obligations related to voting might be helpful. Each state has specific guidance on the amount of time required under designated voting leaves, pay requirements, and acts prohibited by employers, among other things. This chart can also be created by accessing the Employment Law Jurisdictional Compare Smart Chart tool provided by CCH, which MRA members can access through the MRA dashboard.