When Your Boss Can Actually Stop Your Election Talk

March 15th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

You have a lot to say this election season. You want to talk about Trump, Hillary, Bernie and maybe even Gov. John Kasich with your other opinionated co-workers. But you may want to tone down that water-cooler talk because you don’t really have the right to say anything you want —especially on company time.

Boston-based employment law attorney James S. Weliky told ATTN: that employers have a lot of control over your work day.

"An employer can say 'During work time you have to do work stuff," he said.

Generally, your employer can restrict any kind of speech in the workplace, except for a few key exceptions.

“The First Amendment applies only to employees of the government in certain situations, and all citizens when they’re confronted by the government,“ said employment attorney Mark Trapp to Bloomberg Business. “In other words, freedom to speak your mind doesn’t really exist in the workplace.”

But Twitter shows us that plenty of people are speaking freely anyway.

Your employer can hold your political activities in AND out of workplace against you in most states.

Are all the Trump supporters getting better shifts than you? It may have been something you said. Dan Prywes of the District of Columbia office told U.S. News & World Report that employers can take action against an employee for political speech they don’t like. “This means that a manager could schedule Trump supporters for more lucrative shifts or could assign less desirable projects to Hillary supporters,” he said.

Your employers can usually tell you all about their politics.

After the Citizens United decision, companies can usually tell you about their political preferences. In 2012, Mitt Romney pulled an add featuring coal miners after some complained their bosses forced them to attend his rally without pay, according to Politico. The coal company denied attendance was mandatory. Employers can expose you to their political positions but they can’t force you to vote a certain way or give money to a particular candidate.

Federal law allows employees to discuss labor issue politics.

Because of the National Labor Relations Act, companies cannot stop you from discussing political views on labor, but it can be tricky. If you say you like a candidate because they are strong on workers’ rights, that’s fine. But if you take a turn in the same conversation to talk about his or her education policies, that’s no longer protected.

Delete the Tweet.

Many companies are looking at your social media presence and you could lose a job or even be fired if the content is inflammatory enough. Nancy Flynn from the ePolicy institute told The Wall Street Journal that employers should constantly monitor their employees social media activity.

“Strict monitoring allows employers to spot potential problems early, get the information offline as quickly as possible and discipline the employees involved,” she said.

Weliky said that the best way to stay safe is to get organized, if possible. "One of the best protections is having a union," he said. By organizing it can be more difficult for an employer to fire you.

Some good advice for all employees is to make sure you know the laws in your state, as the protections vary. Also, if you think your employer has violated the law in restricting your speech, you can call your state’s labor board or the National Labor Relations Board.

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