Employer Guide for Election Season
The 2016 presidential election season has provided fodder for often impassioned conversations among friends, family and co-workers. While we may not always agree with all points of view, it is important to remember that conduct and discussion tolerated among friends or family may not be suitable in the workplace.
Employers should be mindful of the principal “dos and don’ts” when addressing political speech in the workplace:
- Do not encourage or discipline employees for their political activities. California law prohibits employers from adopting or enforcing any policy that tends to control or direct employees’ political activities or affiliations. Employers further cannot coerce or influence employees to follow, or refrain from following, any particular line of political activity by threatening a loss of employment. Labor Code §§ 1101-1102.
- If heated discussions are an issue, remind employees about what constitutes acceptable conduct in the workplace. Remind employees that all perspectives are entitled to respect, and that use of derogatory or abusive language will not be tolerated in a workplace setting.
- Comply with “time off to vote” rules in California. California law allows employees to take paid time off to vote (up to two hours) if employees do not have sufficient time outside of work hours to do so. Note, employees are allowed to take more than two hours to vote, but only two hours need be paid.
- Generally, time off to vote can be restricted to the beginning or end of an employee’s shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from the regular working shift (unless employee and employer agree otherwise). Finally, if employees know, or have reason to believe that time off to vote will be necessary, they are required to give notice to the employer at least two working days prior to the election.
- Post “time off to vote” notices. If not already in place (many pre-printed workplace postings reference time off to vote), employers must post an employee notice at least 10 days before a state-wide election – either in the workplace or where it can easily be seen by employees as they enter or exit their place of work. You can find a list of upcoming elections here, and sample notices here.
Nicole Kamm and Tal Burnovski Yeyni are Employment Defense attorneys.