Elections, Political Protests, and the Workplace
As campaign season heats up and political protests continue on top of an already stressed workforce, most employers seek to maintain a harmonious work environment. While perhaps tempting to regulate employee behavior to keep politics out of the workplace, employers should tread carefully.
Under California’s discrimination laws, political affiliation is not a protected classification. On the other hand, Labor Code section 1101 states that an employer shall not make rules, regulations, or policies that prohibit employees from engaging or participating in politics, including becoming candidates for public office. Similarly, Labor Code section 1102 prohibits employers from coercing or influencing employees through adverse employment action to adopt or follow any particular course or line of political action or political activity. As such, employers should be thoughtful in crafting policies about political expression in the workplace.
Employers may also want to regulate employees’ activities outside the work environment to avoid embroiling the business in controversy but must be cognizant of their employees’ rights to engage in lawful activities outside work, such as attending demonstrations or posting opinions on social media.
These freedoms for employees do not preclude employers from enforcing policies against harassment between employees whether it occurs in the workplace or on social media. Employers also may enforce policies prohibiting employees from attributing their own opinions or preferences to their employer, whether in social media or in public, as well as ensuring protection for the company and its intellectual property.