We hope you enjoyed our webinar on Free Speech Issues in the Workplace. If you weren’t able to join us live, you may watch a recording of our webinar here. Please feel free to share the link with colleagues and friends who may find the information useful.
We’re living in a challenging time. The pandemic, the continuing protests over racial inequality, and the upcoming election, are all adding to seemingly unprecedented stress and turmoil in 2020. As with previous election years, employers are confronted with questions surrounding the intersection of free speech and politics in today’s workplaces. As an added bonus to our webinar, we are sharing our thoughts on some frequently asked questions, below.
Q: When is it safe for employees to engage in political activity?
A: While the answer to this question is certainly unique to each workplace and industry, generally, employees should be allowed to engage in political activitiy when it is off work premises, outside of work activities and on their own time. Employees should clearly indicate that their views are their own and should avoid using their employer’s name. Certain industries — such as non-profits or independent schools — have additional rules on political activities that must be followed. Our recent article, Political Issues on Independent School Campuses offers additional guidance and outlines the do’s and don’ts.
Q: What if one of our employees is running for office?
A: Connecticut has a little known statute that actually affords such employees some leave of absence rights if elected to a full-time municipal or state office. Specifically, Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51l provides that for private employers with 25 or more employees or certain towns, employees who leave such employment to accept a full-time position shall be granted a personal leave of absence for up to two consecutive terms. Upon reapplication for the position at the end of the term, the employee must be reinstated to the same or similar position with accumulated benefits, unless it is “impossible or unreasonable” to do so. For employers, it’s another example of the breadth of Connecticut laws that protect both political speech and political activities. Employers should consider navigating this with local employment law counsel to avoid the traps that exist.
We hope you will join us for the next webinar in our virtual Labor & Employment Series on the ever changing workplace, Managing a Rapidly Shifting Workforce: Work-From-Home and Hybrid Considerations. And, if you missed our first webinar, The New Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Program, where we sat down with Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority CEO, Andrea Barton Reeves, you can watch the recording here. As always, it’s free to participate. Hope you will join us.