What a year it's been for the National Labor Relations
Board! Under the guise of preserving workers' rights under
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which includes the
broad right "to engage in [ ] concerted activities for the
purpose collective bargaining or other mutual aid or
protection," the NLRB has:
Invalidated a policy prohibiting employees from making
statements that "damage the Company, defame any individual or
damage any person's reputation" was overly broad, in that
it would "reasonably tend to chill employees" in the
exercise of their Section 7 rights to protest working conditions
Found that a company's blanket policy of requesting
participants in an internal investigation to keep the investigation
confidential improperly infringes on employees' Section 7
Weighed in on employers' social media policies (read
Otherwise sought to expand its considerable influence over both
unionized and non-unionized workplaces (read
Recently, in Karl Knauz Motors, Inc., the NLRB
expanded its protection of workers' Section 7 rights yet again,
finding that a company's policy, whereby employees were
expected to be courteous, was overbroad and invalid. The
specific policy at issue stated that:
Courtesy is the responsibility of every employee. Everyone is
expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers,
vendors and suppliers, as well as to their fellow employees. No one
should be disrespectful or use profanity or any other language
which injures the image or reputation of the [Company].
Because there were no disclaimers in the handbook that
explicitly allowed discourteous behavior when such behavior was
used to object to or criticize working conditions, the NLRB found
that the mere existence of the policy constituted an unfair labor
The NLRB will continue to dissect employer policies, as it
continues to seek to protect workers' right to complain.
Policies and handbooks should be reviewed carefully, and revised if
they could be interpreted in a way that the NLRB might perceive as
"chilling" employees' right to engage in concerted
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