Effectively Managing Political Speech in The Austin Workplace
June 20, 2016
The political scene is very exciting these days and candidates are reaching out to the same demographic groups your company is employing. This is an excellent time for all companies to ensure that they have a policy about political speech. More importantly, this is an excellent time to make certain that employees understand that policy.
While most companies take the stance that political speech is inappropriate in their workplace; often, at-will employees in private companies mistakenly believe their political speech at the workplace is protected by the First Amendment. As Peter Susser, of Littler Mendelson, P.C. explained, this is because “the First Amendment’s protections of free speech do not apply directly to private-sector” employers. Clarifying this misperception can prevent problems before they occur. Political opinions can be detrimental to the workplace environment because they are often highly-emotional and can unnecessarily spark tension or hostile relationships between co-workers. In addition, the time your employees spend discussing political issues is time that they are not spending on their work duties. Many of the problems caused by political speech in the workplace can be prevented by ensuring that employees know and understand their employer’s policy on political speech at work. Here are some general suggestions for dealing with political speech amongst your employees:
Unless your state provides otherwise, remind employees that their on-the-job political statements are not appropriate.
Explain to employees that the company wants to be sure no one feels uncomfortable because of the political opinions of their coworkers.
Tell employees you appreciate their passion for improving the community but that those activities need to be conducted off company time and property.
Train supervisors about the company policy and enable them to deal with situations involving public speech and engage in consistent and progressive discipline for employees who don’t abide by policies.