Breaking its current trend of finding standard policies in violation of federal labor law, last month the National Labor Relations Board concluded that an employee handbook provision that prohibited employees from displaying a negative attitude toward customers or coworkers did not violate Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA. Copper River of Boiling Springs, LLC, involved a challenge to a South Carolina employer’s handbook provision. The complaining employee claimed that the policy implied a prohibition against criticizing the terms and conditions of employment, thereby creating a chilling effect on protected concerted employee activity.
The majority of the NLRB disagreed, upholding use of the policy. The Board noted that the employee who filed the challenge to the rule had been discharged for using profanity with customers when describing the company. As written, a reasonable employee would only interpret the policy to apply to unprotected conduct involving the employer’s legitimate business concerns.
This case expanded on an earlier NLRB decision that upheld a negative attitude policy that was specifically linked to discussions about employee work assignments. Even though the policy in question here was not limited to such situations, the Board majority still found that it did not interfere with protected concerted activity.