The Coffee Break webinar series, hosted by attorneys in Tonkon Torp’s Labor & Employment Practice Group, provides practical advice to help businesses navigate L&E issues as they reopen their business. During the June 18 program, Clay Creps explored the legal framework for political speech, protests, and responding to racial injustice in the context of the workplace.
Living in pandemic conditions for the past three months has undoubtedly intensified the heightened political environment that has risen in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Political expression in the workplace is a sensitive topic at any time, but when the workplace now constitutes any combination of the physical workplace, home offices, virtual meeting spaces, and messaging apps, the situation is even more complicated. Before diving into details, Clay stressed that if employers do not yet have an official or unofficial policy about political speech in the workplace, they should create one now.
The heart of the program explored the legal parameters for regulation and expression of political speech by both owners and employees in a private workplace. Clay used examples of decisions that employers have made in recent weeks to illustrate how anti-discrimination and harassment laws apply to political expression inside and outside of the workplace whether at protests or in the general public environment. For employers considering taking employment action against an employee for actions taken outside of work, he recommends that they act knowing the law and the context in which the activity took place, as well as consulting their personal conscious.
Clay also encouraged businesses to examine all aspects of their hiring and workplace practices with a heightened lens for evidence of overt or covert racial injustice, and to take action where appropriate. While there is no legal requirement to have a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, it’s a powerful forum to increase morale and to empower employees by including decision makers who can assist in implementing committee recommendations. Clay provided a number of local resources that can help employers to evaluate their workplace and establish diversity, equity, and inclusion committees.
A recording of this webinar is available online. Webinar viewers are encouraged to follow up directly with attorneys to ask questions not addressed during the program. Tonkon Torp has published a COVID-19 Business Resource digest that is continually refreshed with news, alerts and events that address a broad range of corporate topics.