Last month, the National Labor Relations Board continued its rejection of employer conduct policies intended to promote harmonious and productive working relationships among employees. In T-Mobile USA, Inc., unionized employees filed an unfair labor practice charge, challenging company policies intended to promote teamwork. These included a requirement that employees treat one another with respect, prohibited arguing among employees and required employees to demonstrate teamwork in their work with one another.
The NLRB concluded that these policies violated Section 7 of the NLRA because they could be reasonably read by employees to interfere with their rights to engage in protected concerted activity. As in past cases, the fact that the policy was unarguably not intended for this purpose, and had never been used for this purpose was irrelevant to the Board’s decision. The NLRB concluded that the policies’ requirements were so ambiguous that employees would believe that attempts to change terms and conditions of work would subject them to disciplinary action. According to the Board, labor disputes and union organizing activities frequently involve arguments, controversy and criticism.
The Board also invalidated employer policies that prohibited employees from sharing company information with outside parties without authorization, as well as a prohibition against the use of recording devices in the workplace. Unless reversed by federal appellate courts, the NLRB’s position makes it virtually impossible for employers to enforce general rules of conduct or to mandate working standards intended to promote efficiency, productivity and cooperation.