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Letting Employees Help without Hurting Your Non-Solicitation Policy

With the recent wave of devastating natural disasters in various parts of the world, many individuals and corporations are eager to help.  Charitable organizations and their supporters are seeking donations from friends, family, and coworkers.  When such solicitations occur in the workplace, many companies and employees are only happy to help.  But what about the company’s non-solicitation policy? 

As you probably already know, having a policy that bans workplace solicitation is important to help avoid work interruptions and endless requests of employees to buy goods or participate in causes.  It also helps control solicitations by outsiders such as unions.  However, in most cases, solicitations for charitable causes is also prohibited.  As a result, when a large number of employees suddenly want to support a particular cause (such as collecting funds for disaster relief in Haiti), the question that arises is: should the company just make an exception and let employees pass around a collection or send out an email to everyone using the company’s computer resources? 

As with any policy, making an exception undermines the policy and opens the door to many potential problems.  For example, what happens when an employee wants to solicit donations for a religious organization?  If the company says, “no,” the employee could argue religious discrimination claiming,  “You made an exception for them but not for me.”  Similarly, a union organizer who is denied an opportunity to solicit could argue discrimination under the National Labor Relations Act.

The solution is first to have a non-solicitation policy, and then have it reviewed by counsel.  Next, devise a system that allows solicitation during non-working times.  Employees have the right to solicit for unions during such times anyway so why not also allow solicitation for charitable purposes.  Further, consider company sponsored charities, such a matching drives with both the company and the employees making contributions.  There are options for following your non-solicitation rule while still supporting the community in which we live.  Strong Human Resources or legal counsel can help you find the way.