Ask HR: Can I Tell Employees Not to Display Political Posters in Their Cubicles?

Posted on February 29, 2016 us flag

Happy Leap Day! The year 2016 includes not only our first Leap Day in four years, but our first presidential election year in four years. Have your employees started engaging in political chatter at the office yet? We all know the conversation is likely to pick up as we get farther into 2016.

Politics can be divisive everywhere: with family and friends, on social media, and especially at the workplace. When it comes to such a complicated topic, how do you know what rules to set at work?

Fortunately, we’ve got legal experts to consult. The pros at HR Support Center have addressed at least one part of the “politics at work” question: can employees display political posters in their workspaces?

Question:

A new employee has posted political signs on the bulletin board above his desk. Can we ask the employee to remove them? Or is displaying them considered an employee right?

Answer from Aimee, HR Pro:

Thank you for your question. Generally speaking, a private employer can ask an employee to remove political signs—or otherwise limit political expression in the workplace—as long as they don’t run afoul of protected Section 7 rights or applicable state laws.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to talk about the terms and conditions of their work and the right to unionize. While this law protects some political activities, it doesn’t give employees a right to display political signs at their workstations or the right to discuss, during work hours, politics that aren’t work-related.

Employers who decide to limit speech should have and follow a non-solicitation policy. It is also important to keep in mind that several states more broadly protect the political speech of employees while off duty, so employers should focus on workplace behavior and not on limiting the beliefs or protected outside activities of their employees.


Aimee, HR ProAimee is a recognized leader in the field of Human Resources. Aimee was previously the Global Director for the Board of Directors of the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Previously, she was the HR Director and Global HR and Organizational Effectiveness Adviser for an international humanitarian relief and development organization, and worked as an HR consultant to small and mid-sized companies.


We have a long road ahead to November 2016. Do you have other questions about politics in the workplace? One entire year of HR Support Center is cheaper than just one hour of a typical attorney’s time. Contact us to learn how you can have the power of an attorney on your side—inexpensively.


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