Reminder: Regulating Political Speech in the Workplace

With the presidential election just around the corner, employers should be conscious of their interactions with employees, as well as the interactions between employees, as they relate to politics. The ability of an employer to prohibit its employees from engaging in political speech differs depending on whether the employer is in the private-sector or the public-sector. For instance, public-sector employers generally may not enforce policies that restrict political speech, while private-sector employees generally can limit employees’ political speech and can even terminate employees for such speech. However, certain federal, state and local laws may prohibit an employer’s ability to terminate, or otherwise discipline, employees for their political speech and/or affiliation.

Additionally, employees’ interactions with one another that include political discussions have the potential to cause problems for employers as attacking the beliefs of another individual may constitute harassment. For this reason, employers should remind employees about their anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and how they may specifically apply to such political interactions.

Political speech inside and outside of the workplace may implicate various federal, state and local laws.  Therefore, employers should carefully deal with those various issues which may arise during the election season. Leech Tishman’s Employment Practice Group has experience handling these issues and can guide your organization as it enforces existing policies surrounding political speech, or can assist you in creating a new one.

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