Can an employer force an employee to donate to a charity and is it legal that they know how much an employee contributes? This is in the U.S. with a large global corporation.
Apparently the "requirement" to donate is technically informal and was not announced prior to employment. However, it is common knowledge that employees who don't donate will not get promoted or advance within the company. The donations are taken from the employee's paychecks.
Obviously they can not force to donate. But by the looks they are not forcing though, they are motivating by giving some hazy chances to get promoted. It is up to the employees to assess whether this sort of motivation works and whether they are happy to work for a company doing that.
I would, however, look into their motivation to get the donations made. Companies often make donations for certain benefits, such as tax cuts or good publicity. What they are doing looks like they might be presenting the donations as made by the company itself when in fact it is not true. This misrepresentation, if uncovered, may cause loss of the benefits, penalties or even prosecution.
It is common for large US corporate employers to have an employee donations program, often through United Way, sometimes organized by the company or through some other aggregator. Every such company that I have been involved with (at least 5 that I have worked for) had a prominent statement that all donations were voluntary and would have no effect on employment, promotion, or work conditions. Whether that is true, I can't say -- I never experienced any push back on refusal to donate nor heard of anyone being so pressured. But I might not have heard.
If a reputable outside aggregator, such as United Way, is involved, all donations will be reported as those of individual employees, and documentation of this provided to the IRS and to the charity. Claiming someone else's donations is, I believe, a violation of US tax law. But the company may get PR benefits out of having "organized" a large collective donation.
It is not uncommon in such programs that the company at least knows who has made some donation. In some cases I think the company is told how much individuals donate. Of course if the company runs the program, someone in the company knows everything.
Given the "employment at will" rule common in the US, I think it would be legal for a company to fire or decline to promote employees who do not participate. I would call it unethical, but ethics and law often differ. Certainly if a particular manager wanted to push participation, s/he could take it into account in making promotion decisions, which often have wide discretion for an employee's supervisor.
If the company's written invitation to donate says it is voluntary, verbal hints of employment/promotion benefits to those who participate may violate company policy and be the idea of a particular manager. If so, reporting the hints to a high-up official might get action taken.