When Employees and Employers Clash

September 25, 2017 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

Former Supreme Court Justice Byron White, who was also an all American football player, once famously noted that he turns to the sports pages to learn about man’s successes and the front page to learn about his failures.

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t escape the deluge of negative news enveloping the country even after I turned on yesterday’s football games; Or maybe it’s because after watching Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam war last night that got me thinking that the country has never been so divided since 1968, but I decided to throw away my intended subject for today’s blog and remind all you employees and employers out there to take a deep breath when it comes to discussing issues in the work place.

Let’s be honest, with Facebook now that everyone has a soapbox and wants everyone to be their friend, there’s a good chance that supervisors will know where exactly their employees stand on the hot buttoned issues of the day.

For example, let’s say your employer has deeply held beliefs about whether or not it was appropriate for athletes to boycott the national anthem. Before you decide to say something to him or her, keep in mind that New York law makes it “unlawful for any employer or employment agency to refuse to hire, employ or license, or to discharge from employment or otherwise discriminate against an individual in compensation, promotion or terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of: a. an individual’s political activities outside of working hours, off of the employer’s premises and without use of the employer’s equipment or other property, if such activities are legal” (N.Y. Lab. Law § 201-d (McKinney). Keep in mind also, that the National Relations Labor Board has banned employers from taking action against their employees who speak out against issues of work place concern such as wages or working conditions. As a result, if an employee takes to Facebook to criticize workplace conditions, that criticism might actually be protected if other employees express similar concerns.

Now there are exceptions to everything I have just said and I’m certainly not saying that your employee gets to shoot off on issues with impunity. But what I am saying is, is that your employee has more protections than you might think when it comes to holding him or her accountable for viewpoints with which you might disagree. Before you go off half-cocked, take a deep breath and talk to your counsel before punishing an employee for taking part in political activities or expressing views with which you disagree.

 

 

Entry filed under: HR, Legal Watch. Tags: , .

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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