As it enters its final phase, the 2016 election campaign looms unusually noxious. Smart employers should act now to stop the bile from overflowing into their workplace.
This op-ed by
TELG managing principal R. Scott Oswald was published by Washington Business Journal on September 29, 2016. The full article is available at Washington Business Journal.
Guest Comment: How to make an election-free zone
Unless you work at a partisan organization, the best solution is to ban all political expression on company time. It’s time to declare your workplace as an election-free zone—Trump-free and Clinton-free. Without such a policy, employers risk at least three levels of damage:
• Lost productivity, as employees rile each other on issues unrelated to work. Senior staff may need to referee, which will waste further time and may cause lasting bitterness.
• Employee departures, in cases where a clash cannot be resolved.
• Employee lawsuits, as co-workers spout rhetoric that may be a “new normal” for presidential candidates but likely still counts as discrimination at work, even if it’s couched in political terms.
I’m not being partisan here, nor self-serving: As an employment attorney I represent individuals, not companies, so I don’t get paid to draft workplace rules. But the 2016 election already has divided our nation, and I believe that employers can help the situation — and themselves — by demanding civility during the workweek.
Is it lawful to ban partisan chatter at work? In most circumstances, yes — even in jurisdictions like D.C., which forbids discrimination on the basis of political affiliation, a completely neutral blanket policy should raise no concerns.
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