Photo (cc) by Austen Hufford
Several companies have been seen sending emails warning their employees that re-electing Barack Obama might endanger their jobs, and urging them to vote for Mitt Romney. Can private employers do that?
In a word, yes. With a few exceptions such as California, as The Atlantic explains…
Basically, employers have freedom of speech. That means they can say what they want, including strongly suggesting that employees vote for candidates and sending sample ballots to them. Your boss can’t walk into the voting booth with you, and she can’t pay you to vote for a particular candidate, but often there’s little else he or she can’t do.
In most states, at least. Some have stronger laws than others, as Catherine Fisk, a professor the University of California Irvine School of Law notes. In California, for example, the law states that “no employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.” Those laws tend to be in states with strong union presences.
It’s possible legal challenges will be made over the election, but for now, that’s how things work. But that doesn’t mean you have to vote, or tell your employer who you voted for. It just means that elections have consequences, and employers have opinions.