CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

Political Speech and the Workplace

California employers must not discriminate against workers based on political activities, affiliations or speech. Particularly during an election season, employers should re-familiarize themselves with these laws:

  • California Labor Code section 1101 bans employers from making, adopting or enforcing any rules or policies that: (i) forbid or prevent employees from engaging or participating in the political realm, including running for public office; or (ii) control or direct the political activities or affiliations of their employees.
  • California Labor Code section 1102 prohibits employers from coercing, influencing or attempting to coerce or influence their employees into any particular course or line of political action or activity. For example, an employer may not threaten to fire a worker for announcing his or her support for a candidate running for public office.
  • California’s Ralph Civil Rights Act prohibits acts or threats of violence because of an individual’s political affiliation.
  • The federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows union and nonunion employees to discuss labor issues without repercussion, such as how to improve minimum wage thresholds, ensure a safer work environment, obtain more sick pay benefits and permits them to endorse political candidates who support favorable labor conditions.

Employers can and should carry clear policy that respects such employee political activity as long as it does not interfere with productive work activities.  However, the policy should be careful to distinguish workplace conversations over wages, benefits or other employment as outside any such limitations.

Needless-to-say, management should also take close care in dealing with such situations, documenting thoroughly when and how employee political speech has or has not unreasonably interfered with company operations.

As long as employers abide by the above laws, they may communicate their own political beliefs to their workers. See,  California Chamber of Commerce’s Political Communications to Employees for additional guidance on making such employer-originated communications.

For further assistance, please contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Cindy Bamforth

October 16, 2018

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