With the Presidential election fast approaching, and in the aftermath of the Democratic race and current convention, we have been asked in the past if an employer can prohibit political talk in the workplace. Absolutely! The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does gurantee freedom of speech to protect the individual against adverse action by the government. The employer is considered a “private person” and as a result can tell staff to quell such discussions because they can be time consuming. The only exception to this rule are people associated with political campaigns etc.
Not to mislead you, I want it clearly understood that there are certain communications that are protected. I am simply focusing this article on “Political Talk” because an employer can call employees on the carpet for disruptive speech associated with politics.
It is also important to note, since we have clients in many different states, that these laws can vary from state-to-state. As an example, under the California Labor Code, it is unlawful for an employer, by regulation or policy, to forbid or prevent an employee from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming a candidate for public office, or to attempt to control or direct their political activities or affiliations away from work.
As a final comment, the California Court of Appeal said it all when they held; “Unless specifically provided by state law, employers are not required to acknowledge their employees’ exercise of free speech at work.”
If you have any questions please let us know.