We have all heard that it's not polite to discuss religion or politics with strangers at social gatherings; if someone insists on either subject, you should politely excuse yourself from their company if it makes you feel uncomfortable. But what about the workplace? You can't just politely walk away from a co-worker who sits next to you all day. And what if your boss supports a candidate you don't support and tries to convince you to vote for them. Can your boss, manager or supervisor do this to you at work?

What is, and isn't okay to discuss at work when it comes to politics or religion? With elections right around the corner, heated discussions will escalate. As an employer or business owner, do you have any guidelines regarding what or who can discuss these potentially volatile subjects and how to nip them in the bud before they can escalate into arguments. Harassment; race, religion, age, and freedom of expression regarding sexual orientation, to name a few, can all be tied into politicians' platforms and views and they may also be tied into discrimination when discussed at the workplace. 

Generally, it is up to the employer or business owner and it's also up to state laws. If a company sells widgets, the company should have an employee handbook to clearly spell out what subjects are or are not up for discussion in the workplace. If a company is operating as a campaign center for a local candidate, employees will pretty much have free reign to speak all things political. But to be sure you cover all your bases, check with your local state laws or your Human Resources department when drafting a section for your employee handbook for discussing politics in the workplace.

If you don't have an HR department, hire one such as Stellaris Group in Roswell, Georgia to help you to create an employee handbook that clearly outlines your guidelines on discussing politics in the workplace. Stellaris Group HR is up-to-date on local, federal and state laws regarding The First Amendment and political discussions at work and how
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can play an important role in political discrimination at work.

Freedom of Speech
The First Amendment of the Constitution gives us the right to free speech, but if an employee works in the private sector instead of holding a public position on the state or federal level, an employee could be reprimanded or even fired for expressing his or her political beliefs at work in some states. The same goes for supervisors, managers or owners: you cannot persuade employees to vote one way or another.

Strong-arm Tactics
Strong-arming employees to vote one way or another in the workplace never works. Even the restricted class such as supervisors, managers, executive or administrative personnel needs to be cautious when it comes to discussing politics or even asking non-restricted class employees to join in a campaign for a political party or politician during working hours. It all comes down to common sense: there are just certain things you do not discuss at work no matter what position you hold at work, and your employee handbook should make this crystal clear. If you work in the private sector, and your boss or manager tries to persuade you to vote one way or the other, this could be a direct violation of employees' rights.

Tippecaone and Tyler Too
Campaign jingles, bumper stickers, hats, t-shirts and other paraphernalia usually populate desks, cars, and heads as we draw closer to voting day. Again, this is common sense. As an employer, you don't want your office to look like a campaign headquarters, especially if it's for a candidate you don't believe in. It's best to have this outlined in the employee handbook.

If you have an employee who sits in a private office and wants to hang pennants or wear hats or t-shirts to support their favorite politician, this is generally accepted; however, if you have a high profile employee who greets every single person who walks through your doors, you might frown upon them displaying their affection for a political candidate.

If your guidelines state that no one is to wear campaign paraphernalia, then it's settled. If your employee has a bumper sticker on his or her car or attends political rallies outside work, this is completely within his or her legal rights as long as it does not disrupt the workplace.

Time to hit the Polls
Employees should be given time off to vote, but it's best to check state specific voting laws regarding this because some state laws may not protect specific employees leaving the premises to vote on election day. If an employee files a complaint against the company for not allowing them to take off time to vote, or attend a during-working-hours campaign, you many want to ask your HR department or attorney how you should handle this situation before you take any disciplinary action against them.

The time leading up to an election might be a good time to sit down with your employees or send out a company-wide memo addressing the guidelines regarding political discussion at work. Be open to any questions and be ready to answer them.

Because there are so many variables when it comes to potential discrimination such as political discrimination in the workplace, it's always best to sit down with a professional who knows what the laws are. Stellaris Group in Roswell, Georgia can review your current employee handbook, or they can customize an employee handbook that clearly expresses your company's vision, goals, and guidelines.