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60% of employees say discussing politics at work is unacceptable—57% do it anyway

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As the Democratic primaries kick-off, most Americans are talking about politics — including at work.

According to a recent Glassdoor poll of over 1,200 employed adults, 57% of workers say they have talked about politics while on the job — despite 60% saying they "believe discussing politics at work is unacceptable."

Women were more likely than men to say talking politics is unacceptable; 66% of women said it was unacceptable, compared to 54% of men.

This disdain for political talk among workers appears to stem from fears that it will negatively impact their careers. Overall, 60% of employees said they believe discussing politics at work could negatively impact their career opportunities. People between the ages of 18 and 34 (63%) and Democrats (62%) were more likely to have this concern than Republicans (58%).

And they may have good reason for being worried. Political speech can get you lawfully fired.

"Private employers can fire you at will," Lata Nott, executive director of the First Amendment Center, told CNBC Make It.

According to Nott, the company's reasoning for firing an employee cannot infringe on their civil rights, but that doesn't include chatting about politics in a way a hiring manager may deem inappropriate. "Title VII protects your age, national origin, race, ethnic background, gender, religious beliefs and pregnancy status from discrimination, but it does not explicitly protect political speech at work."

Over a quarter of people (28%) said a co-worker has tried to persuade them to change their political party preference in the past year.

Republicans (24%) were slightly more likely than Democrats (23%) to say that they would not want to work with a co-worker who plans to vote for a presidential candidate they don't like.

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The new data from Glassdoor highlights a trend that analysts expect to worsen over time. Glassdoor said increased politicism among corporations is one of the biggest trends of 2020 as a part of its newly-released Jobs and Hiring Trends for 2020 report. This includes political conversations among workers, politically vocal CEOs and socially-conscious corporations.

"Traditionally, companies have tried to be neutral politically for really obvious reasons," Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor told CNBC Make It. "But the political climate in the U.S. is so contentious, so divided. There's a new scandal in the headlines every day, and it's taking over watercooler conversations at work. It's also putting CEOs under pressure to react in that environment."

According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 42% of U.S. employees say they have personally experienced, and 44% say they have witnessed, political disagreements at work.

Roughly 34% of respondents told SHRM that their workplace is not inclusive of differing political perspectives, and 12% said they have personally experienced political affiliation bias.

A majority (56%) said that discussing politics at work has become more common in the past four years.

"One year out from the 2020 election, we should expect to see political disagreements increase even further in the coming months," said Johnny Taylor, SHRM president and CEO, in a statement. "Companies can't, and shouldn't try to, quash these conversations because — contrary to popular belief — they're already happening. But what they can do is create inclusive cultures of civility where difference isn't a disruption."

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