April 30, 2006 Dealing With a Political Boycott: What Should You Do?
Today is the day targeted by national immigration rights’ groups for a national boycott, which is slated to include widespread workplace “sick-outs.” Called “Un Dia Sin Immigrantes” – A Day Without Immigrants – the boycott is intended to show the economic might wielded by immigrants and thus draw additional attention to contentious immigration-related issues.
If this type of politically-motivated absenteeism strikes your workplace, how should you handle it? Although each workplace, and even each employee situation, is unique, here are some basic guidelines:
- Whatever steps you take, it is important that you not mete out stiffer punishments for employees who miss a day of work for this political purpose than you would for any other unexcused absence. If you would normally terminate an employee who was a “no call/no show,” you needn’t make an exception for employees who miss work because of the boycott. But if you wouldn’t normally terminate an employee for one unexcused absence, it wouldn’t be a wise move to do that now. Being overly harsh could well be viewed as attempting to “control or direct…the political activities or affiliations of employees,” which is prohibited by California Labor Code section 1101(b).
- If your workplace is particularly dependent upon recent immigrants, this may be rare occasion when “looking the other way,” or generally being more lenient, might be a wise business move. Indeed, a number of California employers with large Hispanic populations have already decided to shut down today as a sign of solidarity. Other employers have given their tacit – or sometimes express – approval for employees to take today off, in the hopes of fostering goodwill.