This post at the Evil HR Lady Facebook group caught my attention yesterday:
Florida company’s president warns employees their jobs could be in danger if Trump loses election
Some employees at a Florida manufacturing company feel they were threatened with being laid off if they did not support President Donald Trump.…
Their paystubs included a letter from [the employer] warning them that their jobs could be in danger.
“If Trump and the Republicans win the election, DMC will hopefully be able to continue operating, more or less as it has been operating lately,” the letter read. “However, if Biden and the Democrats win, DMC could be forced to begin permanent layoffs in late 2020 and/or early 2021.”
While it’s not illegal for employers to talk to their employees about the upcoming election and suggest how to vote, there are laws regulating this type of conduct if it goes too far.
The federal government criminalizes intimidation, threats, or coercion for the purpose of interfering with one’s right to vote one’s choice in a federal election. A few states (Michigan, for example) expressly prohibit employers from discharging or otherwise coercing employees to influence their votes in political elections. Ohio is not one of those states.
Legal or illegal, however, you need to ask yourself whether holding meetings to discuss political issues, threatening employees’ jobs, mandating their attendance at political events, or otherwise telling them how they should vote is a valid business practice. How you answer the question of whether you think it’s okay to try to shape or influence your employees’ votes helps define the kind of employer you are. Voting is an intensely personal choice. I don’t think it’s my business how my family or friends cast their votes. I certainly don’t think it’s an employer’s business how its employees cast their votes. Voting booths have privacy curtains for a reason. Exercise some discretion by not invading the privacy of your workers regarding their choice of candidates or political parties.
This post originally appeared on the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, and was written by Jon Hyman, Partner, Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis. Jon can be reached at via email at email@example.com, via telephone at 216-831-0042, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.