In a recent workplace survey reported by the law firm Gordon & Rees, 46 percent of employees said they plan to discuss the 2016 presidential election, with co-workers. Twenty-three percent said they had already had heated exchanges with co-workers about politics. Employers, take note: You run the risk of a discrimination claim arising out of political speech in the workplace. The good news is that you can minimize the risk, by implementing and enforcing policies on solicitation, anti-harassment, and discrimination in general.
Monitor Liability Managers, which provides directors and officers liability insurance for nonprofit organizations, and Gordon & Rees attorneys recently offered suggestions for employers, in a Webinar entitled “Keeping the Water Cooler Safe.” They noted that employers have the right to regulate political speech in the workplace, to ensure efficient operation, and suggested the following measures:
The presenters noted that some states have laws affecting employers’ and employees’ rights regarding political expression, and the National Labor Relations Board will defend what it considers “protected concerted activity” by employees. For those reasons, the presenters suggested that employers consult legal counsel before disciplining employees for issues related to political expression. Monitor Liability Managers, and many other insurers offering directors and officers liability coverage, make legal counsel available by phone to policyholders at no additional charge. These insurers also can help you craft the written workplace policies mentioned above.
Also, please keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service strictly regulates political advocacy by tax-exempt nonprofit organization. An organization can lose its 501 (c) (3) status by violating the requirements. For a 16-minute video on the subject, go to https://www.stayexempt.irs.gov/Existing-Organizations and scroll down to “Political Campaigns and Charities.”