It is campaign season and “yes” it will be over soon. However, in the meantime, are employers able to ban campaign posters, fliers and buttons from the workplace? Currently, there are no federal laws that regulate this sort of activity for private employers and employees. Private employers may decide whether they want to allow this activity in their work environments. However, it is strongly recommended that they have written policies in place to regulate it. Suggestions include:
- If employers have a non-solicitation policy that is consistently enforced, they may refuse to let employees distribute or post fliers in the workplace. Make sure that employees are reminded of the policy as Election Day approaches.
- If employers have a dress code policy, they may prohibit employees from wearing political buttons, shirts, hats, etc. as part of their policy. Regulating this activity when it comes to employees who come in direct contact with customers or clients is essential as employers don’t want their employee’s political views to damage their company image. (Keep in mind that if an employer is subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), prohibiting employees from wearing buttons, shirts, hats, etc. may not extend to union members during a union organization or election as this is protected under the National Labor Relations Act.)
Companies that have a non-solicitation or dress code policy need to make sure that it is enforced consistently among all employees. A President who arrives at the office with a political button on his lapel should be reminded of the policy and asked to remove it, as an employee who may have been disciplined for violating the same policy may have a claim for wrongful discipline or termination, or even coercion, under some state laws.
An employee’s political views and activities are generally off-limits to employers according to both federal and state laws. However, in cases where an employee harasses another employee because of their political views, the employer may discipline the harassing employee. In addition, if the employer is able to tie a person’s political beliefs to actual or highly probable business issues, challenges or problems, the employer may have grounds for disciplining the employee. Check with your employment law attorney or HR Consultant to make sure that you are not putting your company in harm’s way by disciplining an employee against what your policies state.
So, remember that during this season of high political activity make sure that your company has written policies that protect the company and its employees. However, the key to having those policies is to make sure that they are equally enforced among everyone.
For more information on this topic please contact New Focus HR.
Written By: Kristen Shingleton, M.B.A., CCP
President, New Focus HR LLC