Politics in the Workplace! Yes or No?

In times past it was generally accepted that, in polite company, you didn’t discuss three distinct topics:  religion, politics and…well…you can guess the other one.  Times have changed and with the advent of social media, many of these traditional ideas seem very quaint!  In the area of elections and the workplace, we have seen big changes over the years that have led to companies thinking about politics in the workplace, how involved a company can be and even if a company wants to be active at all.

Politics and elections can be a challenge in the office environment, especially with the intense interest in years when it is a Presidential election, like 2016.  This environment can be confusing, both for employees and employers.  This brings forth the question of how active should an employer be during an election, and in what way that does not create potential problems.

Like individuals, every employer in every industry in this country has a vested interest in the outcome of an election because lawmakers and Presidents have the ability to create public policy that can have a tremendous impact on any industry, either positively or negatively.

However, there are areas where employers can be involved on varying levels in the election process.  Data developed by the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) has shown that employees actually look favorably on information provided from an employer on issues, candidates and elections.  Employers should take the opportunity to provide that information so that employees understand how policy positions of different candidates would impact their industry and the voting process.  This allows employees to make an informed choice when they enter the voting booth and also allows them to consider the impact a particular vote could have on their industry; in some cases a voter will discover that the candidate that is closest to their personal views may not be the best candidate for their industry and that may be something they want to add into the equation when making a voting decision.

All of this might be new for your company, and you might still have concerns about getting involved in deeper activities surrounding an election.  However, one area where you can be involved and have a positive impact is making sure your employees are registered to vote and that they understand the voting process.  Here are some ways to start that process:

  • Consider sponsoring a nonpartisan voter registration drive as part of company events: the company picnic, in-house seminars, brown bag lunches and other similar events at your company.  Encourage your employees to register to vote.
  • Include voter registration material in employee information packets and in welcome kits for new employees.
  • Alert employees as critical dates near including registering to vote for an upcoming election, deadlines to apply for an absentee ballot and the opening of early voting.  Do this for both primaries and general elections.
  • Some states require that employers provide paid time off to vote.  If your state does not have laws requiring this, consider instituting paid time off for people to have time to vote and to remind employees before the election when polls open and close in your state – different states have different times so it is important to know the poll times in your locality.

These are just a few examples where employers can be active in helping their employees participate in citizen democracy.  While an employer never wants to be viewed as trying to force employees to vote a certain way, providing tools to register to vote can go a long way in helping individuals be informed and navigate on Election Day.

Are you interested in knowing what more you can do to educate your employees on the issues?  inFUSION Group can help!

Written By: Christopher R. Brown, CAE
Senior Consultant, inFUSION Group

This is Overtime?

July 2011:  Farmers Insurance Inc. agreed to pay $1,520,705 in overtime back wages to employees at call centers in Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). “Failing to properly compensate employees for pre or post shift work is a violation of federal law,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

How was the amount of back wages determined? The DOL interviewed employees and reviewed payroll and timekeeping systems to reach the conclusion that Farmers Insurance Inc. did not pay call center employees for time spent on required pre-shift work activities. The activities include turning on workstations, initiating software and logging into the system. The DOL investigators determined that each week employees routinely performed an average of 30 minutes of unrecorded and uncompensated work.

As you think about the routine of your employees, think about the time in your workplace spent on getting ready for the work day or the activities needed to wrap up the work day. It might not be hours each week; it could just be minutes each week. But, multiply those minutes out over a year and you are looking at a substantial amount of money. Are these activities being done “on the clock” or are they unpaid? Changing processes or routines may be in the best interest of your organization. It can keep you in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and it is certainly easier than paying out back wages.