Header graphic for print
New Jersey Human Resources Topics of Interest to the HR Industry in New Jersey


Posted in General



Well, it’s that time of year … the air is getting a crisp chill, the leaves are starting to turn, and lawns are adorned with political support signs.

And, oh yes, the debates.  Let us not forget the debates.  Those spirited prime time discussions of right versus left, democrat versus republican, Romney versus Obama.

No matter which side you’re on, and even if you fall somewhere in the middle, it’s hard to ignore that the spirit of the election season seems to make us all somewhat “feisty” about our political beliefs.

So here’s the question for all you HR Reps out there:

How do you handle the political debates that spilll over into your workplace as disagreements between co-workers?

Isn’t it amost an indisputable law of physics that your most extreme “leftist” employee and your most extreme “rightist” employee will be drawn together in the lunch room by some inexplicable gravitational pull to “debate” the correctness of their beliefs, the noble nature of their respective candidates, and the horrors perpetrated by the other?

And isn’t such a discourse protected by the First Amendment?

So what do you do? 

How do you handle it?

Although the “scholars” on the subject may not universally agree, I would say the answer is quite simple … you pay employees to work; not to debate.  They are more than free to debate, campaign, hand out leaflets, exchange satirical emals, and the like on their own free time; not yours.

An employer obvioulsy should not take an adverse employment action against an employee for their political beliefs, but it is certainly both fair and reasonable to expect that employees will actually do their job while they are being paid to do so.  So don’t be shy about enforcing your work rules just because the topic of conversation involves politics.  For example:

Employees still need to observe break time policies.

Employees still need to observe civlity in the workplace policies.

Employees still need to observe internet/email usage policies.

In short, everyone is entitled to their own personal political beliefs, but these beliefs do not in any way excuse adherence to otherwise legitimate workplace rules.