As the 2020 general election approaches with many employees working remotely and participating on social media platforms, employers can anticipate that employees will engage in political speech and activity in the workplace. Political speech includes a wide spectrum of activities beyond communicating by written or spoken words on a political topic. Other forms of expression that constitute political speech include wearing clothing or other accoutrements endorsing or opposing a person, party or issue; engaging in symbolic speech such as participating in demonstrations; contributing to campaigns; handing out campaign literature; and at least one court has held that “liking” a post on Facebook is political speech. This election year, acrimonious partisan politics, a global pandemic, and economic and social issues that have impacted nearly every worker have generated strong opinions about candidates and issues. Opinions expressed in this highly politicized atmosphere though, can undermine worker productivity or even result in claims of harassment, discrimination, retaliation or a hostile work environment.
As a result, employers face the complicated legal and practical issue of lawfully regulating speech in the workplace to ensure that the workforce remains productive and respectful of the rights and differences of co-workers. Maintaining a productive and harmonious workforce requires that employers understand the limits on their right to regulate or impose rules that limit political speech and expression in the workplace and enforce the rules in a lawful manner. The nature of the lawful restrictions that an employer can impose depends on the designation of the employer as either a public-sector or private-sector employer. While this post will discuss restrictions on both types of employers, the main focus is on the right of private-sector employers to limit political activity in the workplace.
Continue Reading Understanding Employers’ Right to Impose Limits on Political Activities in the Workplace