SHRM Connect: Trump Coffee Mugs and Politics at Work


SHRM Connect is an online community where SHRM members can ask questions and get answers on a variety of HR topics. It’s a great place to network with other HR professionals and share solutions.  

The conversation topics range from “HR Department of One” to Employment Law, are always insightful, and deal with some of the most pressing issues that HR professionals face in the workplace today.

While some of the conversations take on a more serious tone, others will deliver a bit of comic relief -- and on Fridays, I’ll be highlighting a conversation or two in hopes that you’ll take some time to visit. You may want to "lurk"… perhaps respond, but you’ll always learn something.  

It’s a great community and I highly recommend checking it out.


Today's featured conversations highlight some questions about politics in the workplace...


First, we’ll visit the General HR page where an anonymous poster is dealing with the fallout over a President Trump mug on an employee’s desk:   

Topic: President Trump Mug

Similar to other thread about current events. But, Los Angeles, CA here. Manufacturing environment with separate building for non-production managerial staff. In this building, I have a manager that has a President Trump coffee mug and bobble head in his office. He stopped in my office and said he was going to mention something to me just in case I have "Lisa" (another manager, does not report to him, same level) come to my office to complain. He went on to tell me that after entering his office, she stated "I hate coming into this office because all that Trump memorabilia offends me." He said that he told her "Well, I can't help that except to tell you that we can have this discussion outside my office if you like or you can email me or you can call me." She responded with "No, its fine. I just hate him and rather not see it in the office. I can't even believe you voted for him. He's a racist, you know."

He tells me that he bit his tongue and said "OK, Lisa, it is what it is. Why don't you just tell me why you came into my office, what's up?"

He then tells me: "After she asked me what she needed to know, she left. But, I didn't appreciate her tone or her comment. This is the President of the US. Like it or not, he is. You know I was a Marine many years ago and I'm not about to "go in the closet" about me supporting the President. I know I'm in the minority, being Hispanic and a Republican, in California, but unless we have a policy regarding clean desks or not displaying any type of memorabilia, which I'm not familiar with, I'm not putting them away. She, in fact, has a mug with a certain "cat hat" (fingers quoting air) that Madonna wore, I'm sure you know what I'm referring to, if anything, THAT's offensive."

I told him that I would document our conversation and his concerns. I did not tell him to put his stuff away, nor have I called "Lisa" to ask about her "cat hat" mug. Yet.

I think #1) there are no federal laws that control employee political activity in the private sector. We have the right to control employee's time while working. Therefore we can restrict an employee's political activity during work time by prohibiting certain activities and behaviors that interfere with the employee's (or other employees') work. I interpret this to mean speaking about politics while working with other employees, etc. I feel OK to say "Let's leave any political discussions outside the office." But does that pertain to coffee mugs?

And, California Lab. Code Sec. 1101, Chapter 5. Political Affiliations [1101-1106]: 1101. No employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy: (b) Controlling or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.

Does this include forbidding political mugs??

How would you handle?

Click here to read or respond to the conversation.

Mugs or no mugs, can HR ban employees from talking about politics in the workplace?  An anonymous poster in the General HR page asks how others are handling this…


Topic: Office Political Current Event Talk

I was recently approached by an employee who thought I should send out something to all employees stating that any talk about the recent events (the taking down of civil war monuments, etc) is forbidden in the office, as there has been some talk and it may offend someone.  There has been discussion and mostly general talk; a few have stronger opinions than others but nothing out of hand.  How have others handled this?  If I forbid talk is that taking away freedom of speech? Just not sure if they are over reacting or I am being naïve....

Click here to read or respond to the conversation.






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