employers can legally make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s political participation or lack of participation.
Anchorage, Alaska (PRWEB) November 05, 2012
Dr. Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, CEO of The Growth Company, Inc. received a question from a client wondering if an employer is allowed to tell employees how to vote. Today, Dr. Curry reveals a surprising answer.
“Surprisingly”, Dr. Curry says, “the answer is yes.” This question took center stage when Westgate’s CEO, David Siegel, emailed his 7,000 workers warning “I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company” and may even shut the company down if President Obama wins the election (a copy of the email is reported on gawker.com, article written by Hamilton Nolan on October 9, 2012). Soon after that, Georgia Pacific’s owners emailed their 45,000 workers warning that if they vote for the wrong candidate they’ll “suffer the consequences” from higher gasoline prices to runaway inflation, as reported on October 14, 2012 by Mike Elk on inthesetimes.com. When queried, these owners said they were simply educating their employees.
Dr. Curry goes on to inform that before the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, federal election law allowed corporation CEOs to talk to corporate officers and shareholders but not to employees about whom to vote for. Now, corporations can send out newsletters persuading employees to vote for certain candidates. Dr. Curry also states that legal experts note that federal laws don’t even prohibit private sector company executives from making implied threats such as “we’ll lay off workers or close this company if certain candidates win election.”
Further, Dr. Curry mentions employers can legally make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s political participation or lack of participation. In the last presidential election, an employer allegedly fired an employee for having a presidential candidate’s bumper sticker on her car, shocking many who believed employee political views to be insulated from their boss’s whims.
Subsequently, Dr. Curry mentions employers may not, however, bribe employees nor induce employees to give money to nor fundraise for certain candidates. Additionally, employers need to maintain a non-discriminatory and harassment-free environment. For example, Dr. Curry says, “employers need to ensure employees don’t make discriminatory comments about President Obama’s race, Governor Romney’s religion or say to co-workers ‘you only support the female candidate because you’re a woman.’” Employers may ban political discussions that interfere with work; however, they have to enforce these bans equally and for all candidates.
Meanwhile, Dr. Curry reinforces that employees have rights. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides private-sector employees, union and non-union, the right to engage in “concerted activities for their mutual aid or protection.” This includes political expression directly related to employment issues. For example, if employees feel electing a candidate may improve the economy and thus their wages or job benefits, they can voice their thoughts.
Although employees can feel and say what they want, Dr. Curry says they can’t say it whenever they want. For example, employees cannot run though the hallways shouting, “Obama supports minimum wage" instead of working or if it disrupts other workers. Additionally, employees can be political activists on their own time.
Finally, in this highly charged political season, Dr. Curry says managers and employees need to realize their fervently-held views – if different from those they work with -- can create massive discord. It pays to keep political discussions respectful and focused on issues and to “give it a rest” when it is realized the person they’re talking to is someone with a mind made up.
According to Dr. Curry, “Although we can try to influence how others vote, when each of us enters the voting booth, we – and our employees, managers and co-workers -- can vote for whomever we want.”
Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at Lynne(at)thegrowthcompany(dot)com.
© Lynne Curry, November 2012, http://www.thegrowthcompany.com