Original post date: May 20, 2019

Political conversations can begin almost anywhere in our society today and at times they can be controversial.  Good or bad, these conversations do occur.  As leaders in organizations, we need to recognize that these conversations can distract employees in the workplace.  What can we do?  Should we do anything?  The most important question, can we legally do anything about these conversations?  All great question.  Below are key answers to these questions in the State of New York.  Remember, check your own state and local laws and regulations, as laws vary throughout the country and change frequently.

  1. Private employers can limit political expression in the workplace—provided they don’t run afoul of protected Section 7 rights or applicable state laws. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act gives non-supervisory employees the right to talk about the terms and conditions of their employment and the right to unionize.
  2. Section 7 of the NLRA protects some political activities, it doesn’t give employees the right to discuss politics that aren’t work-related during work hours. Are they performing work related tasks on work related time or being unproductive and taking extended breaks?
  3. Focus on workplace behavior and not on limiting the beliefs or off-work activities of employees.
  4. Focus on job performance rather than political discussions specifically. If an employee spends too much time engaged in “extra office chat,” regardless of the topic, assume they are not performing their position to your organization’s expectations, or that they may be significantly distracting their co-workers. Have a direct conversation with these employees.
  5. At times these discussions take place during normally scheduled breaks, focus more on the effect on morale, general feelings of good will and culture around the workplace.
  6. Meet privately with the employee(s) involved and discussing how their comments are affecting the team. Communicate very clearly that you’re in no way interested in limiting their political actions outside of work, but that it’s important to stay on task and/or avoid certain topics in the workplace, to protect both the feelings and working time of their co-workers, as well as their own productivity.
  7. The New York State Statute defines political activities as; (i) running for public office, (ii) campaigning for a candidate for political office or (iii) participating in fund-raising activities for the benefit of a candidate, political party or political advocacy group. There are no protections (currently) for political conversations in the workplace.
  8. Remember workplace retaliation, harassment and bullying. Hold employees accountable for your rules and regulations.  Focus on the productivity and morale issues related to these conversations and not specifically on political opinion.

I would like to reference and thank HR on the Move for collaborating with me on the information above, these are conversations we have had regarding political conversation in the workplace.  What about professional sports?  There are different rules and regulations that impact professional sports leagues.  Players sign their own contracts with each team, and teams can set their own rules.  Yes, professional athletes at times will have different rules in the workplace.

NYC Bans Family Planning Discrimination May 20, 2019

“The New York City (NYC) Council has added “sexual and other reproductive health decisions” to the list of protected classes under the NYC Human Rights Law. This new protected category encompasses “any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for or offered or provided to individuals relating to sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions.”
Covered employers: All employers in NYC with four or more employees.
Text of the measure can be found here.”[i]

June 30th Laws and Regulations to Remember[ii]

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Notice Due
Massachusetts PFML law requires employers to provide written notice to all of their employees and independent contractors by June 30.

New Jersey Expands Family Leave Laws
Employers with 30 or more employees, in any location, soon will be required to provide those employees working in New Jersey with 12 weeks of job-protected family leave during each 24-month period.

Suffolk County, N.Y., Bans Pay History Questions
Suffolk County employers with four or more employees will soon be prohibited from inquiring about a job applicant’s salary history or relying on that information in determining a new employee’s compensation.

NLRB Uber Drivers Ruling May 2019

“Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel said in a memorandum issued May 14, making unionization harder for drivers. Uber’s labor costs probably would rise 20 to 30 percent if courts treated them as employees, industry experts say.”  This is a major ruling for employers throughout the country defining contractors and employees.

[i] SHRM Update

[ii] SHRM Email

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