‘Red!’ – ‘Blue!’ – ‘RED!’ – ‘BLUE!’: When political talk gets out of hand

by on October 22, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

It can happen anytime, but especially in a presidential election year: Political discussions among employees erupt into loud, angry disputes.

Is there anything you can do about it? Don’t employees have freedom of speech, even if it disrupts their work?

Yes, you can try to quell political disruptions, and no, employees don’t have unlimited freedom of speech, especially if you’re a private-sector employer.

Policy wanted
As with many issues, the way to handle this one is, first, to have a policy. (According to a SHRM survey, only about one quarter of employers do.)

Your policy could go so far as to ban political discussion at work. Or you could warn employees that political talk that turns disruptive will be a cause for discipline, like any other disruption of the workplace.

You’ll want to decide, too, whether your policy will cover non-verbal expression like the wearing of buttons and t-shirts, or the e-mailing or social media posting of political materials during work.

Two caveats:

  • The National Labor Relations Act protects speech related to work conditions. Thus, if employees discuss, say, the healthcare law, even in partisan political terms, you’re taking a risk if you try to shut them down.
  • Four states – California, Connecticut, Louisiana and South Carolina – bar employers from limiting workplace political talk.

Check out the Employment Law Compliance Rapid Learning Center for Managers and Supervisors FREE. Get instant access to a collection of 6- to 10-minute modules perfect for training supervisors and managers throughout your organization.

In either of the above cases, however, you could still discipline employees whose political talk turned disruptive.

Click to View Comments

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.