A recent decision by the NRLB should have employers taking a fresh look at their handbooks and workplace policies. In the case, the Board ruled that four (4) work rules maintained by the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). All four rules, found in the employer’s handbook and on its intranet, improperly restricted employee communications.
The offending rules and the reasons they were found to violate the NLRA:
- A blanket prohibition against contacting the media violated the NLRA because it could be interpreted as prohibiting employees from communicating about labor disputes with newspaper reporters,
- A rule requiring referral of any requests from law enforcement for interviews or information about employees to company security violated the NLRA because it could be interpreted as prohibiting employees from communicating with NLRB agents,
- A broad instruction that employees never discuss details about their job, company business or work projects with anyone outside the company violated the NLRA because it could be interpreted as prohibiting employees from discussing wages and other terms and conditions of their employment, and
- An instruction that prohibited employees from blogging, entering chat rooms, posting messages on public websites or otherwise disclosing private company information violated the NLRA because it would prohibit the disclosure of employee records that include information related to employees’ wages, discipline, and performance.
The problem with these policies was that they were overly broad as written, were not necessarily related to legitimate business interests, and prohibited some communications protected under the NLRA. Given the NLRB’s increased enforcement activity in recent years, employers would be wise to review policies and ensure alignment with the NRLA.