Employment Law Commentary -- Volume 24, No. 9 September 2012: Preventing Politically Based Conflicts in the Workplace While Respecting Your Employees’ Right to Be Politically Active

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As November 6 approaches, the presidential candidates and their supporters continue to campaign heavily. Every social media outlet, from Twitter to The New York Times, is saturated with information about the candidates and their views on every contested issue of this election season. Whether one is interested in Mitt Romney’s views on taxes and Clint Eastwood or interested in President Obama’s views on the Middle East and Jay-Z and Beyoncé, almost everyone will find an issue that will strike his or her interest . It seems inevitable that political discussions will find their way in to the workplace.

Political discussions can be a healthy form of everyday conversation in the workplace, stimulating intellectual dialogue and fostering positive work relationships. However, because many of the issues at the forefront of these elections can be deeply personal since they deal with race, class, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, religion, inequality and more, friendly conversations can easily escalate into heated debates. It is important to take steps to attempt to minimize politically based conflicts in the workplace because they can interfere with productivity and lead to formal complaints or even to a potential lawsuit.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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