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Balancing act: Politics in workplace, checking on charities

With just 10 days left in this year's presidential campaign, many watercooler conversations have turned to politics.

And that could mean trouble.

Political debates at work may seem harmless, but a Florida company says they can lead to "a host of problems."

"Political disagreements can lead to employee dissention and reduced productivity," said Ashley Kaplan, an employment law attorney with G. Neil Corp., in a press release that crossed my desk recently.

"And, when a manager or executive brings a candidate into the workplace or visibly endorses an issue, employees may feel pressured or in fear of negative job consequences if they do not have similar views."

A few political conversations have popped up here at the Deseret Morning News in the past few weeks, but in my view they have been thoughtful and haven't affected productivity.

Still, Kaplan recommends that employers implement a written policy to set limits on political activities at work. The policy should be tailored to fit applicable laws, Kaplan said in the release, and may include prohibiting employees from:

Using company time, materials, property and other resources for political purposes.

Distributing political literature, soliciting contributions, collecting signatures or performing political work on company premises during work hours.

Displaying posters, signs, stickers, buttons, hats, clothing and campaign slogans at work.

Using the company's name or logo in connection with any political activity.

Once a company has a policy, it must be administered consistently.

"When an employer treats employees differently, even if it's inadvertently, employees may perceive the treatment as discrimination," Kaplan said. "You don't want to give the impression that you have a bias against someone's cause or candidate, or that different standards apply to different people.

"Exceptions should not be made for anyone, senior management, even the owner of the business, unless there's a business justification and it's documented."

I'd be interested to know how many local companies have policies like this. If yours does, drop me a line describing the policy and what you think of it.

On a more festive note, just as the political season ends, the holiday season will swing into high gear. And that means charities will be flooding your mailbox with requests for donations.

But how can you be sure an organization is legitimate?

One good place to start is, the Web site for the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "The Alliance reports on nationally soliciting charitable organizations that are the subject of donor inquiries," according to a notice on the site. "These reports include an evaluation of the subject charity in relation to the voluntary (Better Business Bureau) charity standards."

If you can't find all you need there, you also might check out A nonprofit company itself, Charity Navigator offers free guidance through ratings of nearly 3,500 charities.

To help donors make intelligent decisions this holiday season, the site offers a holiday giving guide. The guide includes a list of the highest and lowest scoring charities, workplace giving tips and a roundtable discussion with charity leaders and non-profit experts about the importance of end-of-year giving.

There are hundreds of worthy causes out there that would love some of your money. But as with any investment, it pays to do a little research before mailing your check. So give these sites a look, and then be generous!

Back to answering your questions next week. If you are facing a financial dilemma, please contact me by e-mail at or by regular mail to the Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.