John is the CEO of a national retail chain. He is a big supporter of the Whig party and enthusiastic about the upcoming election. John loves to talk politics with his employees in the workplace and even hangs candidate signs on the outside of the building. Sometimes he invites his employees to join him at Whig fundraisers and rallies. Recently, a Tory candidate announced her support for legislation that would make unionization efforts easier for John’s hourly employees but would, in all probability, negatively affect the retailer’s bottom line. John warns his hourly employees about the “dangers” of supporting the Tory candidate and tells them they should vote Whig.

Is John violating the law?

Probably. Under Federal election law, employers are forbidden from telling hourly employees how to vote. A company may make “electioneering communications” to its shareholders, executives and salaried managers. However, companies are prohibited from expressly advocating the election or defeat of a particular federal candidate to hourly employees.

Practice Pointer: Employers should exercise caution while discussing politics with employees. While employers may think they are engaging in friendly political chit- chat, their hourly employees may interpret these conversations quite differently.

For more information, please see the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Also, for a related article in the Wall Street Journal, see the August 1, 2008, “Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win.”