Rite-Hite CEO urges employees to vote for Mitt Romney

MILWAUKEE — A memo from the Milwaukee company Rite-Hite is getting a lot of attention from all over the country. The CEO sent a memo to employees why they might want to vote for Mitt Romney. At least one employment attorney says that’s illegal.

“It’s obvious, you can’t put a gun to someone’s head and say you better vote for this person,” said employment lawyer Randy Enochs. “The same could be done through a letter, it’s just a less threatening way of coercing and threatening and intimidating a certain vote.”

Enochs says it’s not clear whether the owner of Rite-Hite committed that coercion in the memo to employees.

The letter was leaked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has drawn national attention.

CEO Mike White tells U.S. employees they should “understand the personal consequences of having our tax rates rise dramatically if President Obama is elected.” 

Another attorney says that’s where White went wrong.

“In my mind, it’s more than just a generalized statement about the effects an election may have on a business. This employer by their own quote is making this personal,” said attorney Jeff Hynes.

Wisconsin law says it’s illegal from employers to distribute printed material including “threats intended to influence the political opinions or actions of the employees.”

A spokesman for Rite-Hite says the owner is out of town. The company declined to comment on the memo.

Enochs says regardless of the outcome, the controversy should serve as a warning to other business owners with strong political views.

“Employers need to act with caution when they send these types of things because it is a very tricky, delicate situation especially with the election reaching its peak here,” said Enochs.

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