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CEO comments stir up election controversy

A company leader's comments about the presidential election to employees via e-mail prompted questions about whether his actions are legal.

A Wisconsin election law apparently prohibits the type of comments that some U.S. employers are making to their workers about the how the election outcome could affect their benefits, or even jobs. The "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" published an e-mail message from Mike White, owner of Rite-Hite equipment company. He said he respects his employees' right to vote as they choose, but warned that if President Obama is able to get the tax increases he has promised, White might not have the money to continue contributing toward employee health insurance or retirements.

The owner did not threaten layoffs as some CEOs have done since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed businesses to become politically involved under its "Citizens United" ruling. The "Journal Sentinel" later reported that a Wisconsin election law prohibits employers from telling workers that if a particular person or party is elected, a business would end or reduce its production, salaries or wages would be cut, or anything else intended to, "influence the political opinions or actions of the employees."

White and his company have not commented further on the e-mail to their workers. Rite-Hite employs about 1,400 people throughout the world.