Managing Politics at Work

“Business as usual” is anything but usual in 2020.  In addition to the still-looming global pandemic, our country stands politically divided.  With the 2020 Presidential Election in the spotlight, it is clear that tensions will rise, but that doesn’t excuse bad behavior in the office.  Divisive political debates at work can have a negative impact on employee performance, work productivity, and customer satisfaction.

According to a recent Glassdoor survey, 60% of employees believe discussing politics at work is unacceptable.  However, Forbes just released a survey that reports almost 70% of employees surveyed have discussed politics at work and SHRM research shows that 26% of Americans admit to talking about politics at work regularly (at least 15 minutes per week).

Here are a few ways HR can help to prevent and address political discourse:

  • Make sure your company handbook includes an anti-harassment policy, and that employees understand the difference between opinions and harassment.
  • Discourage political conversations in the office, and ensure that managers remain neutral.
  • Have a clear policy about what type of political displays are or are not allowed in the office.  This can include visual displays like photos and buttons, as well as dress code standards.
  • Check-in with your employees regularly and ensure that they have an easy way to reach a manager to address grievances.
  • Have team-building exercises or events to build employee relationships.

While Americans are guaranteed certain protections under the First Amendment, most employers are legally allowed to limit an employee’s free speech at work.  Here are a few exceptions:

  • California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Seattle (Washington), and Madison (Wisconsin) have laws that prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in political activities.
  • New Mexico has a law that protects an employee’s rights to express political opinions.
  • Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Utah, Washington, D.C., Broward County (Florida), and Urbana (Illinois) have laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees for their political party affiliation.

If you have questions about your existing policies or would like assistance creating an employee handbook, email Valor Payroll Solutions at info@valorpayrollsolutions.com and we will be happy to help.

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