Employment Policies

Workplace Rules Violate the NLRA: Conduct Toward Other Employees

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at a report by Richard F. Griffin, Jr., General Counsel for the NLRB regarding workplace rules.  First we looked at confidentiality rules that may violate the NLRA, then workplace rules regarding conduct toward management.  This week, we will see which workplace rules violate the NLRA regarding conduct toward other employees.  Employees have a right under the Act to argue and debate with each other about unions, management, and their terms and conditions of employment.  Employer attempts to curb employee fights could violate the NLRA.

According to the NLRB’s General Counsel when an employer bans “negative” or “inappropriate” discussions among its employees, without further clarification, employees reasonably will read those rules to prohibit discussions and interactions that are protected under Section 7. Citing Triple Play Sports Bar & Grille, 361 NLRB No. 31, slip op. at 7 (Aug. 22, 2014) and Hills & Dales General Hospital, 360 NLRB No. 70, slip op. at 1 (Apr. 1, 2014).

Let’s See Which Workplace Rules Violate the NLRA

Unlawful Workplace Rules That Violate the NLRA

  • “[D]on’t pick fights” online.
  • Do not make “insulting, embarrassing, hurtful or abusive comments about other company employees online,” and “avoid the use of offensive, derogatory, or prejudicial comments.”
  • “[S]how proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, such as politics and religion.”
  • Do not send “unwanted, offensive, or inappropriate” e-mails.
  • “Material that is fraudulent, harassing, embarrassing, sexually explicit, profane, obscene, intimidating, defamatory, or otherwise unlawful or inappropriate may not be sent by e-mail. …”

Lawful Workplace Rules That Do Not Violate the NLRA

  • “Making inappropriate gestures, including visual staring.”
  • Any logos or graphics worn by employees “must not reflect any form of violent, discriminatory, abusive, offensive, demeaning, or otherwise unprofessional message.”
  • “[T]hreatening, intimidating, coercing, or otherwise interfering with the job performance of fellow employees or visitors.”
  • No “harassment of employees, patients or facility visitors.”
  • No “use of racial slurs, derogatory comments, or insults.”

You can read the report to see the General Counsel’s justifications regarding why some rules are unlawful and other very similar rules are not.

It is usually a bad idea to copy and paste another company’s workplace policies.  The policies may not fit your work environment, and the policies may violate the NLRA or other employee rights.  Be careful when drafting workplace conduct policies. Employers should not interfere with employees’ rights to complain about their workplace and share their experiences and opinions regarding management, the company or other workers.

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

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