November 3rd is nearing, and many Americans are in the midst of voting at early voting poll locations and with mail-in-ballots. With a controversial election following this unprecedented year, the talk of politics is growing at home, on social media, and in the workplace.
Because of this, some companies are taking a stand on their employees’ ability to discuss politics at work. Recently, Coinbase, Inc. implemented a policy that bans any talk or debate of politics in the office. The Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong stated that the company should not “advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction.”
With the implementation of this new policy, employees at Coinbase and other business leaders in the industry believe this is the wrong move. Many employees of the company disagree with this new rule and left the company after the announcement. They accepted a severance package that Armstrong offered to employees who do not agree with his ban on activism in the workplace.
Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is one of the many well-known individuals in the tech industry to comment against this decision. He stated that policies like this will negatively affect the tech industry’s culture, which used to “welcome lively debate about ideas and society.”
Should employees discuss politics at work?
Earlier this year, Glassdoor conducted a Politics at Work Survey. The survey, among over 1,200 employed adults, “reveals that while U.S. employees prefer to keep politics out of work, most find they nevertheless still engage in political conversations in the workplace.” 3 in 5 employees (60%) believe discussing politics at work is unacceptable, but over half of employees (57%) have discussed politics at work. Furthermore, 60% of employees believe discussing politics at work could negatively impact their career opportunities.
With different opinions surrounding the subject, what is the best way to approach political discussions in the office?
- To the extent employees want to discuss political issues, they should do so during breaks and during non-work time
- With any discussion, political or otherwise, employees should be cognizant of the employers’ policies against discrimination and harassment and ensure that no discussion has the potential of offending others based on their race, gender, religion, disability, or any other protected factor.
- To the extent employers support or foster political dialogue, employers should consider doing so in a facilitated dialogue setting and should consider focusing the conversation on larger social issues (i.e. racial and gender equity) and less on politics directly.
Employers have a duty to promote and create equitable workplaces. They do not want to create settings or promote or foster dialogues that cause any employee to feel marginalized based on political differences.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, certified workplace, and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH), mediator, and arbitrator in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela is also a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution. She also owns her own law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in workplace and Title IX discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault investigations.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.