Sex, Politics and Religion
Proverbial wisdom traditionally taught that “Sex, Politics and Religion” were supposed to be topics from which one should refrain discussing in polite company. Employers may want to consider re-applying the maxim to their businesses and the workplace.
With each new meteoric controversy whizzing by with greater frequency and intensity, it seems like the workplace has increasingly become the front lines of a battlefield where antagonists are bent on advancing and venting their closely–held, hard-fought, and increasingly polarized opinions, positions and beliefs.
A widening gamut of increasingly controversial issues are being debated between and among management, employees, clients, customers and vendors, at the water cooler and coffee machine, on the phone and in social media. Division is almost guaranteed over issues such as investigations, immigration, genderism, terrorism, abortion, the wall, marriage equality, Obamacare, tariffs, social security and Medicare, race relations, involvement overseas, nuclear war, income inequality, and taxes, just to name a few.
Arguments and tensions arising from this mounting list threatens to cause reduced productivity, damage to morale, damage to a company’s brand, and loss of employees, clientele and business revenue. It also increases the likelihood of employers being sued by their employees.
For example, if an employee expresses an opinion the boss doesn’t like, wears apparel with a brand the boss detests, or expresses support for a cause the boss opposes, and that employee is fired for some unrelated reason (e.g., low productivity, reduction in force), the employee may believe the firing was wrongful and related to discriminatory reasons and sue claiming wrongful termination, discrimination or retaliation (based on one of the categories afforded protection under the law).
With the 2020 presidential election looming, the workplace is likely to become increasingly affected by, and infected with, controversy and discord and related litigation.
Employers should be mindful of the potential pitfalls of allowing or fostering a workplace environment with unfettered political expression, debate and arguments. So, how can an employer deal with these challenges? Employers may be well-advised to consider implementing policies to avoid or reduce such problems.
Private sector employers can, in fact, restrict employees from engaging in political debate and expression of political benefits in order to preserve job performance, prevent hostility, and prevent violence, alienation and isolation. Employers can create and implement new Employee Handbook policies so long as the policies are applied to the workforce evenhandedly and don’t have a disparate discriminatory impact. A “No Politics at Work” policy or a “No Political Activity” policy can prevent employees from congregating and discussing hot-button topics, wearing political regalia, or engaging in political solicitation and campaigning. Employers can implement employee training sessions to teach employees how to steer clear of controversial topics while encouraging neutral, less emotional conversation and interaction. Employers can also provide supervisor training sessions to help equip supervisors with the tools necessary to combat the potential polarization of employees.
The infusion of “Sex, Politics and Religion” is problematic in the workplace. Schwarzberg & Associates is here to help you weather through a potential political storm. We have extensive experience in developing effective policies, procedures, and proactive responsive measures to deal with these and other workplace issues and in defending employers if and when disputes arise or suits are filed. Please do not hesitate to contact Steven L. Schwarzberg, Esq. at (561) 659-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.schwarzberglaw.com to obtain more information about our firm and its various employment law compliance and defense services.