How To Navigate Political Speech In The Workplace
Speaker : SUSAN FAHEY DESMOND
Refer a Friend
Susan Fahey Desmond is a principal with Jackson Lewis PC. She has been
representing management in all areas of labor and employment law for
over 30 years. A noted author and speaker, Ms. Desmond is listed in Best
Lawyers in America and has been named by Chambers USA as one of
America’s leading business lawyers.
Political speech at work is creating more of a problem now than it did during the 2016 Presidential election!!! With the impeachment, divisive country, and upcoming 2020 election, it has escalated even more. A new survey has found that a significantly increased percentage of employees are feeling stressed and strained because of the political speech since the 2016 campaign! Employees are feeling more cynical and negative at work due to the political talk. Employees report that the negativity and divisiveness have caused them to be less productive, interferes with them getting their work done, and in general to be angrier and to have a negative view of their colleagues. Employers are firing employees for their Facebook posts and pictures. These days calling someone a Democrat or a Republican is sometimes seen as bullying.
Let’s face it, along with religion, sex, and money, politics is one of the most contentious topics in our conversation. Do employers need to be careful of political affiliation discrimination – wait, does that even exist? What laws or regulations should employers consider in setting the tone of political discussions at work if any? Don’t workers have the freedom of speech to discuss politics as they see fit? Does freedom of speech apply in the workplace? Or, can it get you fired? What does the National Labor Review Act (NLRA) say about speech? Some political speech runs the risk of violating Title VII and other civil rights laws. Financial challenges include the risk of discrimination-Biden is “too old” to be president, Harris is a woman. In 2016 it was said that Cruz “wore his religion on his sleeve”, Trump is “narcissistic and crazy”, and Hillary is a “b----“. Is it okay for an employee to make those statements about these current and former candidates in the workplace or could it be construed as discrimination? Are you angry and wanting to revolutionize the government or are you thinking it won’t be realistic and need to approach the 2020 election with a bit more mainstream thinking? And what do your co-workers believe? Does management (and the organization) stay neutral in their stance or are they outspoken in expressing their viewpoints? Does it matter?
Employers need to be cautious regarding discussing politics in the workplace except in certain states. Political speech at work should fit into an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy. Written political statements on clothing also need to be recognized in the organization’s dress code. Thirty-five percent of employers openly share their political views with employees; 36% of employees discuss politics at work; Of those who did, 23% said it led to heated discussion or an argument. Only 25% of organizations have a written policy on political activities. Eighty percent of employees believe it would be illegal for their employers to terminate them for engaging in political speech at work. Is there an ethical viewpoint in speaking politics at work? If political speech isn’t handled well by the organization, it risks not only lawsuits but absenteeism and turnover. Shouldn’t political speech be an important element of your organization’s diversity and inclusion initiative? Political speech at work is more complex than we likely have given consideration—organizations will benefit from getting a strong handle on the complexity of our contentious political divide.
- What every employer needs to know about the Federal Election Campaign Act?
- When a political non-solicitation policy can land an employer in a legal battle?
- To know the Best practices for communicating a political activity policy to the workforce
- Dress code dos and don’ts as applicable per political speech—and limitations under the National Labor Relations Act
- To discuss the first amendment and its role in controlling political speech at work
- To explore the National Labor Relations Act and how the statute applies to politically charged speech
- To interpret federal and state anti-discrimination laws and their nexus with political speech
- To list ten helpful hints in dictating political speech at work
- To identify the pros and cons of political speech at work
- To explore the consequences for employees and for organizations when political speech occurs in the workplace
- To explore the role social media plays in political speech and the workplace
- To review specific laws related to political speech inside and outside the workplace that may impact a worker’s job
- To list suggestions of items in your political speech policy
- When it’s acceptable to discipline an employee for political-related behavior, including answers to questions such as:
o What’s likely to constitute political harassment in the workplace?
o What’s the threshold for establishing business harm on account of an employee’s political speech?
Course Level - Intermediate
Who Should Attend
- VP of HR
- All HR Directors, Managers, and Generalists
- Director of Risk Management
Why Should You Attend
- To learn workers’ rights about political speech
- To know what the legal rights and responsibilities of the workplace/employer include about a political speech by the organization and management
- To diminish bias and risk of liability regarding political speech