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Should You Allow Employees to Discuss Politics at Work?

Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP
by Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP on August 26, 2020

This week, the Republican National Convention (RNC) is in full swing, where Republican delegates formally re-nominated President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The RNC, held in various venues in Washington D.C., Charlotte, N.C., and virtually, followed the prior week’s mostly-remote Democratic National Convention (DNC). Last week, Democratic delegates announced their party’s formal nominations of former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris.

With each party’s nominations locked in, and the political season well underway, we can expect the political discussion to get more emotionally charged as we inch closer to the November 3rd election. America’s polarized political views can have tensions running high. As is to be expected, as political discourse ramps up, so does the likelihood that hot-button discussions can boil over between coworkers.

So, how can leaders limit the distraction posed by political talk?

If your organization’s recruitment strategy is done right, you’re likely to have a work environment filled with diverse employees, and with a diverse workplace, comes diverse viewpoints. With high voter engagement from both ends of the political spectrum, opinions are bound to be shared in the work environment, where individuals spend a large amount of time together.

From the get-go, employers should cultivate a culture of respect and civility, and make sure to promote and reinforce this, especially during the political season. It is important employers reiterate their discrimination, harassment, and social media policies. While opinions may differ it is essential to be aware of appropriate conduct.

Can you ban all political discussions?

While government employees do have some protections, employees do not have a constitutional right to free speech at work, but a complete ban is likely overbroad. For instance, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits an employer from banning workers from discussing the terms and conditions of their employment.

A discussion of one candidate’s support for raising the minimum wage may trail into talk about starting pay at your company. That is protected speech since pay relates to your terms and conditions of employment and is legally allowed, no matter how uncomfortable it makes management.

However, employees should maintain professional behavior, and discussions should not disrupt the workplace.

State laws may also add to worker rights and safeguard lawful off-duty conduct. If you are a client of FrankCrum, you can contact us for guidance.


Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Tonya is the Labor Compliance Manager at FrankCrum. In this role, she leads the FrankAdvice team of HR consultants and manages the delivery and content of best practice HR information to client owners and managers. When she’s not at work, Tonya enjoys international travel.

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