By: John E. Murray
Many employers believe the upcoming election could have a significant impact on their business. This belief has led some employers to share these opinions with their employees. Normally there is nothing wrong with political discussions in the workplace. However, Wisconsin prohibits political discussions which unfairly influence how employees will vote. Wisconsin places the following restrictions on political discussions in the workplace:
- Employers cannot predict or threaten that the outcome of an election will directly cause layoffs, reduced benefits or wages, or other negative changes to working conditions. The Wisconsin legislature believes such a prediction could unfairly influence how an employee votes. Wisconsin places no limitation on employer’s ability to share their opinions about how a candidate’s election might impact the overall economy, foreign policy, or the general business climate.
- Employers cannot coerce or encourage employees to make contributions or provide services to any candidate.
Wisconsin also guarantees that employees will have an opportunity to participate in an election. Employees have the right to be absent, up to three hours, for the purpose of voting. This leave is unpaid. This leave cannot be the basis for any unfavorable review or negative job decision.
Employees also have the right to serve as election officials at polling places. Employers cannot encourage or discourage any employee from serving as an election official.
It is normal to talk about any exciting or contentious election. Employers should not feel like mute observers to these discussions. So long as employers avoid explicitly or implicitly linking the outcome of an election to specific changes in the workplace, they are free to engage in candid political discussions with their employees.
If you have questions about anything in this e-alert, feel free to call John Murray at 414-226-4818, or any other Lindner & Marsack attorney at 414-273-3910.