The Intersection of Politics and Employment Law
Date: March 30, 2016
I’ve seen a lot of political campaigns in my years but this one is clearly the most polarizing one I can remember; and it is likely to be the most expensive. What does that have to do with Employment Law? Well, many employers financially support (and want their employees to support) via Political Action Committee (PAC) candidates (local and national) perceived as friendly to businesses in general or the employer’s business in particular. Here are some do’s and don’ts for any employer contemplating asking employees to contribute to PAC:
- First, they should understand that federal law and the law of many states prohibit corporations from directly making financial (or in-kind) contributions to political candidates. They may, however, contribute to PAC. Both the employer and a PAC lawfully may solicit contributions to the PAC but the law differs depending on the employee’s status. That class of employees known as the “Restricted Class,” which consists of professional, policymaking , supervisory, and managerial employees and their spouses and family members; employees who are members of recognized professions; and those serving on the employer’s board of directors who receive compensation other than on an hourly basis may lawfully be solicited any time. Stockholders and members of their families are also considered within the Restricted Class and may be solicited any time.
- Solicitations may be made of all employees not in the Restricted Class but only twice per year. Certain rules apply to such solicitations. Employers contemplating solicitation of all employees should familiarize themselves with those rules.
- PACs may accept unsolicited contributions from any United States citizens and green card holders, as well as those from other PACs.
- Individuals may contribute up to $5,000 per year to a PAC and contributions may be made by payroll deduction. Those making contributions should understand that the contributions are not tax deductible for federal tax purposes.
- Employers should only ask for contributions. They may not be forced and should not be coerced in any way, shape or form. If solicitations are through managers, those managers must be clearly advised not to suggest that favorable treatment will result from a contribution or that unfavorable treatment might follow a refusal to contribute. Employers who solicit in written form would be well advised to have the solicitation reviewed by knowledgeable counsel.