November 8, 2016 is almost here—finally. There has been
stress and controversy in the workplace this election season as a result of the
unusually contentious and heated presidential election.Indeed, a recent American Psychological Association survey revealed that more than half of Americans
see the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress.
A few months back, we posted some practical advice for employers about managing politics and controversial social
issues in the workplace. As November 8 approaches, we’re fielding some
recurring questions from employers. Today’s post will focus on answering these
questions to assist employers as they navigate Election Day 2016.
Are we required
to give employees time off to vote?
There is no federal law that requires employers to give employees
time off to vote.However, many states have such requirements, and some mandate
that employees be paid for time spent going to the polls during working hours.For example, in Minnesota,
every employee who is eligible to vote in an election has the right to be
absent from work for the time necessary to vote, and an employer may not
penalize the employee or deduct wages because of the absence. Voting leave laws
can vary significantly by state.If you are
an employer operating in multiple states, it’s important to understand and
abide by the requirements of each state.
Should we throw
an office election party?
Some employers want to make Election Day special for their
employees. We’ve heard about plans to provide pizza, plans for an employer-paid
trip to the local bar, and plans to keep the office TVs on all day so that employees
can gather to follow the election news or returns. We’ve even heard of an
employer staging “good natured” mock debates between employees who pose as
candidates. These might be acceptable practices in some circumstances and
office environments. In this controversial election cycle, however, employers should
think twice before encouraging social events that focus on politics. Even if
the employer is willing to accept the distraction caused by such gatherings,
there is a possibility of angry disagreements, hurt feelings, and the expression
of discriminatory sentiment, all of which can have long-term effects and all of
which could lead to employer liability. If you do choose to celebrate or
recognize Election Day in your workplace, insist that employees to engage
respectfully and civilly with one another, and that they exhibit respect for differing
Can we require
our employees to vote for a particular candidate?
We’ve seen some commentators
say that in a private business, it can be legal for a boss to attempt to
influence employees’ votes or political activity.We advise caution.Voter anti-coercion laws have been on the books
for years. Federal law prohibits voter intimidation and coercion in certain elections, including
presidential and congressional elections.Some states have enacted their own anti-coercion statutes. Some state laws
specifically address coercion in employment relationships, while others contain more general prohibitions against coercion. Employers should be mindful of these
statutes and avoid threats or intimidation intended to force an employee to
vote a particular way or for a particular candidate. In our view, the best
practice is for employers is to stay far away from the voting booths of their