Lobbying Affiliate: MML&K Government Solutions

Can I prevent my employees from discussing politics in the workplace?

Attorneys

March 25, 2016
Brandon K. Johnson
Louisville Business First

The answer to this question is a qualified “yes.” The First Amendment prevents the government from restricting speech, but it does not apply to private companies. Certain aspects of employee political speech may be protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 7 lists the rights of employees as they relate to activities in the workplace with the purpose of affecting employment conditions. Specifically, Section 7 allows employees to “engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” The NLRB has taken this to mean that employee speech with regard to conditions and terms of employment cannot be limited, and this obviously can have ramifications for employee political speech. Employers should be careful to delineate between policies regarding union/organizing labor and polices regarding other topics of employee speech. Also, policies limiting employee speech cannot affect employee political activity outside of work.

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