October 30, 2020: What to Do When Employees Bring Up Politics

Gusto Editors

October 30, 2020

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Addressing the elephant in the room

It’s on all our minds, and if it’s not, it’s most certainly all over our screens. It’s hard to turn on the television, watch a video online, or log into social media these days without seeing coverage of the 2020 election—and our various networks’ opinions about it.

It’s an important time for all Americans to be sure, but it’s also a tricky topic to navigate in the workplace. Political division on key issues is pervasive, and it can feel as though there’s no common ground on certain topics. Given the times, Harvard Business Review has three tips for having productive political conversations in the workplace:

  1. Practice curiosity. Like the article says, “You don’t have to renounce your views in order to practice curiosity. All you have to do is set them aside.” When you let go of your viewpoint a little, you leave room to see where your co-worker is coming from.
  2. Set boundaries. Agree on the time and place for conversations, and try to allow equal space for both sides to share their perspectives.
  3. Bring your humility. Aim to learn, not to pass judgement. Look for what you can better understand from a discussion rather than what doesn’t resonate with your worldview.

In the real world, telling your team to leave politics at the door isn’t always possible. But if your employees choose to engage you or each other on political topics, you can arm them with the tools to have respectful, constructive conversations.

Read the full article here.

The gist from Gusto

Here are a few legal considerations employers should keep in mind while addressing politics in the workplace, from Gusto Employment Counsel Michael Cole

Politics is on everyone’s minds. While it’s not realistic for employers to ban or prohibit discussions about politics in the workplace, they can take certain steps to manage tensions. For example, employers should affirm the importance of respectful communications—but take care that you don’t prohibit or ban conversations about topics such as labor and working conditions. Even if those are couched in terms of politics, Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects employees who come together for mutual aid and protection, even in non-union settings.

As another step, employers should remind employees of their anti-harassment, discrimination, retaliation policies and make clear with examples that while disagreements of opinion may be okay, harassing or discriminatory speech is not.

Also, consider taking steps to foster a diverse and inclusive culture (which includes political viewpoints), knowing that tone from the top matters. Finally, keep in mind that in some states, employers are prohibited from retaliating or interfering with lawful outside activities of their employees, which can include political activities.

How fraud killed EIDL grants

When the pandemic hit and businesses were forced to close, one bright spot for business owners was the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program—more specifically, the $10,000 cash advance businesses could get within a few days of applying. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because, as Bloomberg reports, it turned out to be:

People caught on fast. In some neighborhoods in Chicago and Miami, it seemed like everyone made a bogus application to the Small Business Administration’s Covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Professional thieves from Russia to Nigeria cashed in. Low-level employees at the agency watched helplessly as misspent money flew out the door.

Even after the $20 billion in funding for grants dried up in July, the fraud continued, as scammers looted a separate $192 billion pot of money set aside for loans. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said an SBA customer-service representative who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her job. “I don’t think they had any processes in place. They just sent the money out.”

By relaxing fraud-prevention measures in favor of speed, the SBA was able to help many businesses—but also enabled potentially billions of dollars in fraudulent loans. Many business owners were left in limbo wondering when they would receive their grants well past the promised window, or were unable to even apply before funds expired.

This has led to a recent crackdown from the SBA on any suspicious loan applications. If you plan to apply for funding, make sure you’re armed and ready with all your documentation handy and ways to verify their authenticity.

Read the full article here.

Breaking down benefits

It’s that time of year again. Time to start thinking about enrolling in or renewing your benefits plans. We’ve come up with a few resources to help answer some of your biggest questions right about now:

Picks from our partners

Top relief options for the week

  • SBA has awarded $19 million in State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grants to state agencies to support the growth of small business exporting.
  • Washington State Department of Commerce is partnering with Philanthropy Northwest to provide $2 million in CARES Act relief funds with a focus on community-based nonprofits and Tribal organizations most impacted by COVID-19.
  • Hawaii Business Pivot Grant program provides up to $10,000 to businesses for expenses related to pivoting or adjusting the company, its operations, products, services, or related items to meet the new economic environment. The grant application will be open from October 22 to November 23.
  • Vermont’s Expanded Economic Recovery Grant will award qualifying businesses and nonprofits, including sole proprietors, up to $300,000 in total economic recovery grants. To qaulify, businesses must have seen a decline in total sales between March and September of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, and must demonstrate unmet need.
  • City of Indianapolis is offering grants to help businesses purchase supplies to enable outdoor dining in the coming winter months. This $1 million grant program will benefit restaurants, bars, and live entertainment venues located within Marion County through the reimbursement of up to $2,500 for qualifying expenses related to winter COVID-19 preparedness.
  • See more relief options in our Small Business Relief Finder.

Want more small business news and resources? Check out past editions in our archive.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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