Article Summary

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 .

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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.