In the wake of its Boeing decision, the National Labor Relations Board continues to analyze various employee handbook and other policies to determine if they interfere with Section 7 employee concerted activity rights. On October 10, the board concluded that an employer’s confidentiality and media contact rules meet its revised test for permissible employment restrictions.
LA Specialty Products involved old employee handbook provisions that (1) prohibited employees from disclosing customer and vendor information and (2) limited media contacts to the company’s president. Employees filed an unfair labor practice claim, alleging that the policies violate Section 7 rights because they could deter workers from providing information to union organizers or from speaking with the media about working conditions. In terms of the confidentiality policy, the NLRB noted that it is narrowly written to only cover customer and vendor information such as pricing. Employees would not reasonably read this rule to prohibit disclosure of customer or vendor identity.
For the media contact policy, by limiting responses to the company’s president, the policy only restricts communications that are made on behalf of the employer. Again, the board said that the policy could not be reasonably read to prohibit employees from speaking with the media about complaints over working conditions.
The board classified both policies as Category 1(a) under Boeing, meaning that they are permissible rules on their face, without the need for the employer to provide business justification for the restrictions. These decisions reflect an increasing unwillingness of the NLRB to prohibit standard employment policies absent unreasonably broad language that would be read by ordinary employees to interfere with their ability to organize.