We all have opinions, but whether your remarks are posted on Facebook or shared at the water cooler, legal experts say it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself when you’re working.
Whether it’s police enforcement, Black Lives Matter protests or even the Presidential race, discussions over these political issues can become heated. Experts say these controversial topics should be avoided in the workplace with co-workers.
“You know you can get in trouble doing that,” Sioux Falls attorney Jean Bender said.
Bender, who workers with multiple companies on their HR policies, says conversations, emails or even cartoon posts at the office depicting political issues can be grounds for harassment or discrimination.
“If the recipient of your cartoon felt it was offensive to them, based on protected characteristics, they then could bring that up to your supervisor and you could be reprimanded for that,” Bender said.
Most companies have policies in place when it comes to harassment or discrimination.
Bender says employees have a responsibility to comply with those policies, but ultimately she says it’s up to the employer to keep political issues and racial conversations from becoming a form of harassment.
“Arguably, a one shot deal isn’t technically harassment, but that’s where it starts and so a good manager will nip it in the bud,” Bender said.
If they don’t, Bender says it could result in a lawsuit or even violence.
“There’s a right time and a wrong time for everything and at the workplace is probably not the place where I would recommend people engage in a lot of political conversations,” Bender said.
What about First Amendment rights?’ Bender says in most workplaces, especially private companies, employees don’t have First Amendment rights while at work.