|Gardere Labor and Employment Attorney Carrie Hoffman quoted in The Dallas Business Journal article|
Politics in the Workplace: What can a company do?
|October 12, 2012 11:58 pm|
Dallas Business Journal:
As the presidential race crescendos, emotions run high and discussions get heated, leaving employers to wonder about legally permissible ways to defuse political conflicts in the office so feelings don't get hurt, work gets done and lawsuits don't get filed.
First things first, employment lawyers say. The First Amendment does not apply to private employers' regulation of employees' speech and behavior in the workplace ....
Carrie Hoffman, labor and employment partner with Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP in Dallas, said the issue with politics in the workplace is that the discussion too often devolves into conversations that lawyers advise employers to stay away from, including race, religion and gender. Those topics can open up the employer to a discrimination lawsuit.
"They're just inextricably intertwined," Hoffman said."There's no way to separate all of those issues, and they create beliefs on people's part of hostile work environment. Even if you take out that issue, (they create) hard feelings and morale problems."
When an employer sees employees discussing political matters at work, Hoffman suggested that the employer tell the employees to have the conversation during non-working hours.
Employers also should tell employees that political materials are not permitted to be sent from company email, Hoffman said.
Even though some companies do this, employers shouldn't pressure employees to vote for or contribute to a certain candidate, she added.
"From an owner/employer standpoint, the last thing you want to do is have your employee feeling uncomfortable at work because they don't support the political candidate you do," Hoffman said. "If they're uncomfortable, they're not going to be productive. That's the reality. You want them to be at work to work. We're not at work to express our political views."
© 2012 American City Business Journals
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