The day after an election leads to an abundance of political talk around the water cooler as supporters of the victors boast about the outcome. But a spirited political debate can escalate into a claim of discrimination or hostile work environment, warns Susan K. Lessack, a partner with the Troy and Detroit law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP.
“While some political activities can be prohibited in the workplace, some actions are protected,” says Lessack, who concentrates her practice in employment counseling and employment litigation.
Because one’s political beliefs are often part of personal identity, political activity at work can become divisive or offensive. As hurt feelings and anger can decrease worker productivity and raise the workplace temperature, political activity at work can cause problems.
“Many people wrongly think the First Amendment entitles them to express their political views whenever and wherever they wish,” says Lessack, “but there is no constitutional right of free speech in a private employer’s workplace, absent contrary state law.” Recognizing it would be impractical to ban politics at work, Lessack says employers should consider drafting a political discussion policy that minimizes distractions, yet allows a certain amount of respectful political discourse.
To listen to a podcast with Ms. Lessack on “Politics in the Workplace” and view what a political discussion policy can include, visit here.
Other articles and white papers of interest:
- Employment Diversity In Michigan , a networking group on Linked In.
- Culture Bridges are a look at the contents of the character within each of us. Information is contained on more than 20 different categories of culture.
- Cultural Faux Pas is an interesting quiz about marketing mistakes made by others.
- Culture Quizzes allow you to test your cultural IQ with fun and informative quizzes.
- Life’ Leadership Lessons by Rick Weaver- 53 anecdotal leadership lessons. Paperback, e-book, Kindle.