Employment Policies

Workplace Rules that Violate the NLRA: Conduct Toward Management

Last week I wrote about workplace confidentiality rules that the NLRB’s General Counsel says violate the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act).  This week, we are looking at the same report and what it has to say about workplace rules regarding conduct toward management.

Employees have Section 7 right to criticize or protest their employer’s labor policies or treatment of employees.  According to the General Counsel,” rules that can reasonably be read to prohibit protected concerted criticism of the employer will be found unlawfully overbroad.”  The GC goes on to say:

a rule that prohibits employees from engaging in. “disrespectful,” “negative,” “inappropriate,” or “rude” conduct towards the employer or management, absent sufficient clarification or context, will usually be found unlawful.

Citing Casino San Pablo, 361 NLRB No. 148, slip op. at 3 (Dec. 16, 2014).

As with the confidentiality rules, the General gives several examples of rules regarding conduct toward management that he believes violate the NLRA and examples of rules that do not violate the NLRA.

Rules that Violate the NLRA

  • “Be 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.”
  • “Be respectful of others and the Company.”
  • No “[d]efamatory, libelous, slanderous or discriminatory comments about [the Company], its customers and/or competitors, its employees or management.
  • “Disrespectful conduct or insubordination, including, but not limited to, refusing to follow orders from a supervisor or a designated representative.”
  • “Chronic resistance to proper work-related orders or discipline, even though not “Refrain from any action that would harm persons or property or cause damage to the Company’s business or reputation.”
  • overt insubordination” will result in discipline.
  • “[I]t is important that employees practice caution and discretion when posting content [on social media] that could affect [the Employer’s] business operation or reputation.”
  • Do not make “[s]tatements “that damage the company or the company’s reputation or that disrupt or damage the company’s business relationships.”
  • “Never engage in behavior that would undermine the reputation of [the Employer], your peers or yourself.”

Rules that Do Not Violate the NLRA:

  • No “rudeness or unprofessional behavior toward a customer, or anyone in contact with” the company.
  • “Employees will not be discourteous or disrespectful to a customer or any member of the public while in the course and scope of [company] business.”
  • “Each employee is expected to work in a cooperative manner with management/supervision, coworkers, customers and vendors.”
  • “Each employee is expected to abide by Company policies and to cooperate fully in any investigation that the Company may undertake.”
  • “Being insubordinate, threatening, intimidating, disrespectful or assaulting a manager/supervisor, coworker, customer or vendor will result in” discipline.

Confused yet?  Does it seem that some of the lawful rules are extremely close to the unlawful rules? You’re not alone.  It’s difficult to tell the difference in many examples.

When drafting workplace conduct policies, employers should be mindful that employees have the right to complain about their workplace and share their experiences and opinions regarding management and the company.  Limiting an employee’s right to complain about management will likely violate the NLRA.  Employers have to consider the impact of workplace rules on employee rights and find an appropriate balance.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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