Can an employer ban employees from discussing politics at work under a threat of suspension?

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Can an employer ban employees from discussing politics at work under a threat of suspension?

A place where my mother works announced that all conversations pertaining to politics and recent elections are forbidden. If anyone is heard to talk about politics at work or is reported by someone else, that person will be suspended from work for 3 or 4 days and there will be a disciplinary note in their file. It seems to me, this is a violation of free speech.

Asked on November 15, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Nebraska

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Actually, this is legal. The reason is that most employment relationships are "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of work much as it sees fit, including prohibiting employees from discussing politics or an election. This is true provided that such a prohibition does not violate the term of an employment contract/union agreement or constitute some form of legally actionable discrimination (which it does not appear to). Some speech is protected in the workplace, for example if workers wanted to discuss the formation of a union or the like, but otherwise for the most part an employer can legally mandate what can or cannot be discussed in the workplace. Accordingly, a worker can either accept the restriction, not comply but risk termination, or quit. 


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