The 2012 election season is entering into the home-stretch (thankfully). And in the final dash to the voting booth candidates and their supporters are working hard towards being on the winning side of the votes.
In fact, the Michigan Employment Law Advisor blog discussed Mitt Romney’s conference call hosted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses where he urged listeners to encourage their employees to vote for him for President, noting that there is “nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business …”
But before taking Mr. Romney’s advice, it is critical for Michigan employers to understand what and how much can be said and done when it comes to discussing or encouraging employees to vote for a particular candidate.
Under Michigan Law, Employers Cannot Directly or Indirectly Threaten Employees in Relation to Urging Employees to Vote in a Particular Way.
Michigan law specifically prohibits an employer from communicating threats – direct or indirect – of discharge for the purpose of influencing an employee’s vote. The specific restriction reads:
A person shall not, either directly or indirectly, discharge or threaten to discharge an employee of the person for the purpose of influencing the employee’s vote at an election.
Under Michigan Law, Employers Must be Careful in Tracking Employee Political Activity.
Michigan employers also need to be aware of another restriction concerning employee political activity: Michigan employers are generally prohibited from gathering or maintaining a record of an employee’s political activities or associations, unless the employee provides written authority to do so. MCL § 423.508.
Further, if an employer does keep an employee record of political activity as permitted under the statute, that record must be part the employee’s personnel file. MCL § 423.508(2).
Next Actions for Michigan Employers when it comes to Employee Political Activity.
Taking an active role in discussing or promoting political candidates or ballot initiatives with your employees is in large part a business decision. But if that decision is going to be made, then it is important to understand the ground rules for that discussion.
For more information about Michigan employee voting issues, contact Jason Shinn. Jason focuses on employment law issues relevant to employers. He founded and moderates a popular Michigan Human Resource Group on LinkedIn and publishes the Michigan Employment Law Advisor. For more information about issues arising at the intersection of employment law and election related laws that employers need to comply with, contact Jason Shinn at Shinn Legal, PLC today.