Magazine article HRMagazine

Ask a SHRM HR Knowledge Advisor: Can We Prohibit Staff Members from Attending a Political Protest during Work Hours?

Magazine article HRMagazine

Ask a SHRM HR Knowledge Advisor: Can We Prohibit Staff Members from Attending a Political Protest during Work Hours?

Article excerpt

Possibly. But some absences cannot be denied.

You can enforce uniformly applied policies regarding requests for time off as well as neutral rules regarding no-call/no-show absences. But the National Labor Relations Act-which covers most private-sector employees, including union and nonunion workers-gives employees the right to engage in protected and concerted activities related to working conditions without fear of discipline.

So in order for a worker's political advocacy to qualify as a protected activity, it must have a direct connection to working conditions, according to guidance from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Political protests regarding minimum-wage increases or the repeal of the Affordable Care Act may fall into this category, for example.

While such absences may resemble strikes, the board concluded that they are distinctly different. According to the NLRB guidance, "When employees leave work in support of a political cause, either to mobilize public sentiment or to urge governmental action (in either case a matter outside their employer's control), they are not withholding their services as an economic weapon in the employment relationship"

When politically motivated absences do occur, consider the context. …

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