A Global Look at Managing Extremism in the Workplace

By on October 19, 2017

Executive Summary of an article written by
Robbin Hutton, FordHarrison LLP

Recent acts of terrorism in the name of religion in France, England and other countries, along with demonstrations and protests across the United States by extremist groups, have created management challenges for employers around the globe. Issues arise when employees with extremist views bring those views to the workplace, creating polarization among employees. Concerns can also arise when employees express their views outside the workplace, especially when the conduct is publicized. In managing the repercussions of extremist behavior by employees, a primary concern is ensuring the safety of the workplace.

The common obligation to provide a safe work environment does not require employers to manage workplace extremist behavior, whether religious or otherwise. Employers manage workplace safety in a number of ways, including background screening at the time of hire, monitoring during employment, and establishing internal policies and procedures regarding acceptable workplace behavior. The methodology is usually defined or restricted by legal requirements, which vary in different countries. The author describes problems and rules unique to various countries, including the U.S., France, Belgium, Mexico, Chile and Argentina.

The most significant way an employer can protect its workforce from extremism is by implementing strong internal policies that clearly define workplace expectations. However, since there is not a definitive or clear definition of extremist behavior, employers globally must try to balance the competing interests of keeping the workplace safe and respecting the varying religious and/or political views held among their employees.

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