Election season is upon us, and this race is unlike any other. Our country is under the pressure of a global pandemic, civil unrest, a recession, and a polarizing race forthe Presidency. Many employers have questions about what they can and cannot prevent in the workplace regarding free speech, political apparel, and even email signatures. What can you do to protect your company and your employees?
While free speech is granted to Americans under the First Amendment, employers have the right to restrict speech in the workplace that violates company policy. Employers can prohibit speech such as harassing speech, discriminatory speech, and disruptive speech. Private employers can also prohibit political speech includingcampaigning and displays.
Employers may prohibit certain apparel in their dress code policy. Violations of the policy may include political clothing or social movement attire. The most important thing to remember is to remain consistent. Do not let one employee wear apparel infavor of one political belief but not let another employee wear an opposing political belief.
It is not uncommon for employees to use personal messages or images in their email signatures. If you have guidelines about this, make sure you are consistent in your enforcement. It is recommended that employers create a template signature and prohibit deviations.
Employers can take immediate action to prepare their workplace (including those working virtually) for this upcoming election season. The most important action itemis to have strong policies in place. Now is the perfect time to facilitate a refresher training on what is prohibited in the workplace regarding behavior, communication, and apparel.
Managers, as opposed to front-line employees, should be reminded about their dutyto de-escalate potential problematic conversations. Managers also have an opportunity to be a positive influence. Remind them that they are setting the example for their team and those around them.
If an employee comes to you with a concern or a complaint, take it seriously. Each time an employee shares a concern, ensure you are proactive in your communication and complete a thorough investigation.
Many employees are still working remote. It may be a good time to remind your employees that workplace policies are not restricted to the physical work location. Whether you are working from your dining room, your couch, or a coffee shop down the street, everyone must still abide by company policies.
This is not an exhaustive list of all possible situations. Please reach out to your consulting team for guidance on specific situations.