One of the things some household employers struggle with is the idea that their home is a workplace when their nanny or other employee is on the clock. Because the home is a casual environment and not separate from where the family lives, it’s hard to draw the line between home and work when an employee is on duty. Employers that have a successful relationship with their employee recognize that their home is a workplace, and create policies accordingly.
This year has already been an intensely political one (and will continue to be), with the presidential campaigns creating a lot of passion and debate on both sides. Because of how much the campaigns are in the news, it seems to be a natural topic of discussion, especially in a more relaxed setting like a family’s home. But it’s crucial to remember that just like in an office environment, political discussions with your nanny may not be a good idea.
The key thing to keep in mind is that you have a professional relationship with your nanny. While it may seem more casual because the nanny works in your home, it’s his/her workplace. So what do you do if your nanny shows up one day wearing a shirt in support of a particular candidate (especially if it’s a candidate you dislike)? Or has a campaign pin on her purse or backpack? Are you allowed to ask that it be removed from your home?
Generally speaking, a private employer can ask an employee to remove political signs—or otherwise limit political expression in the workplace—as long as they don’t run afoul of protected Section 7 rights or applicable state laws.
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to talk about the terms and conditions of their work. While this law protects some political activities, it doesn’t give employees a right to display political signs on their person or the right to discuss, during work hours, politics that aren’t work-related. It is also important to keep in mind that several states more broadly protect the political speech of employees while off duty, so household employers should focus on workplace behavior and not on limiting the beliefs or protected outside activities of their employees.
So what happens if you’re a nanny, and the family you work for tries to initiate a political discussion, even something as simple as asking who you’ll be voting for? In this case, it’s up to you as the employee to decline to discuss it. Tell them that you prefer not to talk politics at work, that you have a professional relationship and are uncomfortable bringing up personal issues. The family must accept this and respect your wishes, just as you must accept and respect their wishes should they not want you to wear clothing or have items that bring political issues into the home.
The bottom line, again, is that your home is a workplace when your nanny is there, and political discussions should be avoided. Keep the relationship professional and focus on topics that either pertain to the job or are just small talk. Families should include a section in their employee handbook regarding political or religious discussions. That way you are covered if an employee ever takes issue with your restrictions.
For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.