One of my employees is working on a candidate’s campaign, and I have heard her on the telephone a lot related to her campaign work. If I ask her to stop, will I be violating any laws?


Elections, especially national ones, can be big distractions in the workplace. Nevertheless, it is neither unreasonable nor illegal for an employer to have an expectation that its employees perform their job duties during paid working hours.

The California Labor Code provides that employers cannot make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming candidates for public office. Furthermore, an employer cannot have policies that control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees. Employers are also prohibited from threatening to fire an employee if he or she does not adopt or follow any particular course or line of political action or political activity.

In other words, an employer cannot forbid an employee from belonging to a party, supporting a candidate, or working on a candidate’s campaign. An employer also cannot force its employees to belong to a certain party or support a particular candidate. However, reminding an employee that her job comes first and requiring her to engage in campaign work during her free time, either during a meal break, rest break, or before or after work, is not prohibited by law.

Employees may become engaged in heated discussions about politics. As in all communications at work, discussions should be respectful, and an employer should step in when matters become heated. An employee may respond that he or she has a First Amendment right to free speech, but that only applies to public sector and not private sector employees. Additionally, political comments can touch on sensitive issues such as race, religion, or sexual preference, and may lead to employees complaining of harassment or discrimination. In that case, an employer must not ignore the situation but must take the same actions it would take in any situation in which an employee complains of harassment or discrimination.

When Election Day arrives, in addition to discussions about politics, employees may ask for time off to step out to vote. California law provides that if an employee does not have sufficient time outside of scheduled working hours to vote in a statewide election, the employer must allow the employee to take off up to two hours at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift, with pay. An employer can require an employee to provide at least two working days’ notice of the desire to take time off to vote. Employers also have an obligation to conspicuously post a notice, not less than 10 days before every statewide election, informing employees of their right to time off to vote. The appropriate notice form can be found on the California Secretary of State website at

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