Company Handbooks May Violate Labor Relations Act

By Brigette Eagan
Recent guidance by the National Labor Relations Board means that your company handbooks may come under scrutiny and be declared unlawful.

On March 18, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board issued a report (the “Report”) identifying numerous employer rules in Company handbooks and social media policies that violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”).  The Report applies to non-unionized workforces.  The National Labor Relations Board (the Board”) is the governmental agency that enforces the Act.

The Act, as publicized to employees on the NLRB’s website, “gives employees the right to act together to try to improve their pay and working conditions or fix job-related problems, even if they aren’t in a union.” (emphasis added).  In many instances, two employees discussing their work conditions, for a non-unionized employer, come under the protections of the Act.

The NLRB’s Report identifies numerous rules from Company handbooks that violate the Act.  The rules deal with: workplace conduct, maintaining confidentiality of proprietary and business related information, anti-harassment policies, use of social media, restrictions on the ability to take photographs and make recordings at the workplace, and the use of copyrights, trademarks, and logos.  Specifically, the NLRB found the following rules unlawful:

  • [B]e respectful to the company, other employees, customers, partners and competitors.
  • Do not make fun of, denigrate, or defame your co-workers, customers, franchisees, suppliers, the Company, or our competitors.
  • No [d]efamatory, libelous, slanderous or discriminatory comments about [the Company], its customers and/or competitors, its employees or management.
  • Do not discuss ‘customer or employee information’ outside of work, including ‘phone numbers [and addresses].
  • Confidential Information is: ‘All information in which its [sic] loss, undue use or unauthorized disclosure could adversely affect the
  • [Employer’s] interests, image and reputation or compromise personal and private information of its members.
  • Discuss work matters only with other [Employer] employees who have a specific reason to know or have access to such information … Do not discuss work matters in public places.
  • [I]f something is not public information, you must not share it.
  • Employees may not engage in ‘any action’ that is ‘not in the best interest of [the Employer’.
  • Do not use any Company logos, trademarks, graphics, or advertising materials; in social media.

As an aside, the NLRB’s report likely calls into question many recently-adopted company social media policies.  Such policies are likely to violate the NLRA if they hamper employees’ ability to engage in free and public conversation about their terms and conditions of employment.  

The NLRB’s report is extensive and has significant impact on employer’s handbooks as well as on internal employer policies relating to confidentiality and internal investigation protocols.  Employers are cautioned to review their policies for compliance.  The NLRB’s Report can be found at http://apps.nlrb.gov/link/document.aspx/09031d4581b37135.

Contact Thomas Jardim (973-845-7642) or Richard Meisner (973-845-7643), co-Chairs of the Firm’s Labor and Employment Department for further information.

 

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2017-01-02T17:00:52+00:00May 25th, 2015|Business Law, Employment Law, JMS Employment Guidance|0 Comments

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