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Talking politics: is it taboo in the workplace?

US President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
US President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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As we enter the last few weeks of one of the closest presidential races in recent history, people of all political persuasions are finding it hard to keep opinions to themselves.

But how much political discourse is allowable in the workplace? Whether it’s a casual water cooler dissection of last night’s debate, following a candidate’s Facebook page or the actual solicitation of signatures or donations, the range of political engagement can be a sore spot for many employers, and in some cases, may even leave them open to legal action.

Some businesses draw the line at displaying buttons, flyers or t-shirts, the sending of political e-mails or using company facilities for political activities. Others may enforce a “no political discussions” policy.

Are employees exercising First Amendment rights when they expound on their favorite candidates and causes? Is shushing them a form of discrimination? What if co-workers feel harassed, intimidated or uncomfortable with others’ opinions?

Do you find political arguments at work annoying and distracting, or do you love a stimulating debate? Would you rather not be forced to share your political views? Do you wish your workplace was a “pundit-free” zone?


Steve Kaplan, Labor Employment Lawyer in practice in Los Angeles; former chair of LA County Bar’s labor and employment section