March 28, 2023

As employers strive to create more welcoming and safe environments, there are two not-so-traditional policies that every forward-thinking employer should add to their employee handbooks: A Political Activity Policy and a Civility Policy.

Rather than policing people’s free speech, activities, and opinions, these policies simply set guidelines for building a culture of respect and inclusivity. Read on to understand what these rules should encompass and how to develop your newest policies. 

Political Activity Policy

We’re all too aware of the countless hot-button political topics. From productivity disruptions to workplace conflicts, you must ensure political discussions and activities don’t interfere with your work environment or damage your company’s reputation.

Enter: Your political activity policy! This employee handbook must-have helps prevent conflicts between employees with differing political beliefs and promotes an inclusive and respectful workplace culture.

What Should a Policy on Political Activities Include?

Details will vary depending on your workplace culture and industry, and you must proceed cautiously to avoid violating employees’ First Amendment rights. However, your political activity policy can: 

  • Ban all political campaigning and soliciting on the business premises
  • Prohibit employees from using company resources or using the company name without prior authorization
  • Forbid political attire and decor/messaging in the office (e.g., clothing, buttons/stickers, flags, posters, etc.)
  • Require workers to ensure their political activities do not negatively impact the business
  • Make it clear that harassment or discrimination based on political beliefs is unacceptable and will not be tolerated

Choose Your Words Wisely

When creating a policy on political activities in the workplace, it is vital to use language that is clear, concise, and free of bias or discrimination. The policy should be easily understood by all employees, regardless of their political beliefs or background.

Some key considerations for language in a policy on political activities in the workplace include:

  • Avoiding partisan language: Do not promote or oppose any particular political party or candidate. Focus only on behavior and conduct in the workplace.
  • Avoiding discriminatory language: Ensure your policy does not discriminate against employees based on their political beliefs or affiliation.
  • Being specific and clear: Clearly define what constitutes political activity, such as political campaigning or advocacy, and provide specific guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
  • Being consistent: Apply the policy consistently to all employees, never using it to target or discriminate against specific employees based on their political beliefs.
  • Encouraging them: Let employees know you support their right to participate in politics outside work property and time.

Overall, the language used in a policy on political activities in the workplace should promote a positive workplace culture that is respectful, inclusive, and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

Addressing Political Activity in the Workplace

You may have employees who conduct political activity at work despite your policy. Similar to the policy language noted above, address the employee by:

  • Focusing on their behavior rather than their beliefs or affiliations
  • Reminding them of the political activity policy and why the behavior was inappropriate
  • Discuss the potential consequences of violating the policy, which may include disciplinary action, up to and including termination
  • Explain that they are welcome to engage in political activities outside of work

Learn more about best practices for handling political discussions and activities in the workplace.

Civility Policy

Another policy popping up in more and more employee handbooks is a civility policy. This set of guidelines establishes expectations for respectful and professional behavior in the workplace. It outlines the types of conduct that are considered inappropriate or unacceptable, benefiting your company by:

  • Fostering a positive and respectful work environment—which can boost morale and productivity
  • Prevent incidents of workplace harassment, discrimination, or violence, along with legal liabilities
  • Showing employees, customers, and partners that you’re committed to creating a safe and respectful work environment

What Should a Civility Policy Include?

Again, your policy will vary depending on your workplace culture and industry. Below are some general examples of what a civility policy may include.

Acceptable Behavior:

  • Treating colleagues, clients, and customers with respect and dignity
  • Communicating clearly and respectfully in all forms of communication
  • Listening actively and being open to different perspectives
  • Resolving conflicts constructively and professionally
  • Maintaining a safe and healthy work environment

Unacceptable Behavior: 

  • Verbal abuse, such as shouting, swearing, or name-calling
  • Bullying or harassment, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and inappropriate jokes
  • Disrespectful behavior, such as interrupting, ignoring, or belittling others
  • Preventing various perspectives and observations, including those about job performance and civility
  • Aggressive behavior, including physical violence, threats of violence, throwing objects, and slamming doors
  • Inappropriate use of technology, such as sending offensive emails or texts

Vague descriptions like “being rude” is not enough—your policy should define unacceptable behavior with specific language, as in the above examples.

Addressing Incivility in the Workplace

When it comes to handling uncivil behavior, keep in mind that consequences must:

  • Match the offense, and not all offenses are equal
  • Be based on observed actions, not intentions to participate in unacceptable behavior
  • Comply with federal and state labor laws
  • Be fair and consistent for all employees

The disciplinary process may involve several steps, including:

  1. Informal resolution: You might start by encouraging employees to resolve conflicts through open communication and constructive dialogue.
  2. Formal complaint process: Provide a standard procedure for employees to report incidents of unacceptable behavior. This may involve an investigation and appropriate measures such as coaching, counseling, or mediation.
  3. Disciplinary action: Outline the consequences for employees who engage in unacceptable behavior. This may include verbal or written warnings, suspension, termination, or other appropriate measures depending on the severity of the behavior.

Additionally, employers should support employees who are victims of uncivil behavior with counseling or other resources.

Adding policies on political activity and civility in the workplace will help you build a positive culture and maintain morale and productivity. Of course, these can be sensitive areas, and you must ensure all language and rules are compliant. 

So if you need assistance developing these policies or updating anything else in your handbook, contact BlueLion at 603-818-4131 or

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.