Election Day 2012 is fast approaching. With just weeks before we head to the polls to select local and state officials and the next leader of our nation, we are bombarded with news, commentaries and personal opinions about candidates and political parties.
At times it’s enough to make your head spin trying to figure out who to choose. But, does your employer have the right to tell you how to vote? Apparently, yes.
It seems that company CEOs are e-mailing workers attempting to sway their votes and threatening negative consequences, such as job loss, should employees vote for the “wrong” candidate. David Siegel, Westgate CEO, in a mass e-mail to his 7,000 employees, supposedly stated that if President Obama was re-elected he’d have “no choice but to reduce the size of this company.”
On the heels of that e-mail came one sent from the Koch brothers to their 45,000 workers at Georgia Pacific. They are said to have told their employees that they could “suffer the consequences” if they voted for candidates not supported by Koch-owned companies or its political fund-raising arm.
Both corporate lawyers and election regulators say that while there are laws restricting employers from prompting employees to donate to or raise funds for a certain candidate there is no federal election law specifically preventing employers from threatening workers with losing their jobs if they vote a certain way.
Employers justify their actions countering that rather than controlling or coercing workers, they are simply educating them. For example, according to the Koch brothers, their letter to staff was “purely intended to be considered among all the other information employees may be reading or receiving as an informed voter,” and they claim to have been clear that they were in no way trying to intimidate employees regarding their vote.
Stacey Mark, an employment attorney, believes that there should be federal legislation preventing employers from telling workers how to vote. “I don’t think employers should have that kind of power over their employees,” she says. “Voting is personal.” In her opinion, employers should not have the right or ability to affect or influence an employee’s vote.
While employers may have the legal right to voice their opinion and tell you how they think you should vote, last I knew actually casting your ballot was a personal choice and a confidential matter. Though I in no way agree with employers using intimidation tactics or attempting to control employees, perhaps we should quit wasting time questioning employers’ motives and possible unethical behavior regarding politics.
Instead, let’s focus on learning all we can about the candidates to make our own educated decisions. Remember that we are not bound to divulge any information about our trip to the polls, and should questions arise at the workplace regarding your vote, two simple words might suffice: “no comment.”