In the news this week was a story that candidate Mitt Romney suggested to small-business owners that they might want to encourage their employees to vote for him.
Here in California, I generally caution all employers against suggesting a position on a candidate or a proposition. The reason is that while employers are free to express their opinions, they cannot demote, suspend, or terminate an employee for lawful conduct, during nonworking hours, away from the employer’s premises. “Lawful conduct” includes voting in an election – for your candidate or their candidate. If an employee is disciplined or terminated shortly after an election in which the employer took a strong, public position with employees, the employer may have given the former employee the basis for a lawsuit.
California law also bars termination of employees for engaging in political activities, becoming political candidates, or following or not following a particular course or line of political action, as long as it’s not advocacy of violent revolution.
And remember, California employees can take protected time off of work, if necessary, to vote in a statewide election.