Miller Nash LLP,
Oregon and Washington Law Firm
On March 18, 2015, the General Counsel for the NLRB issued a new memo providing guidance on common employer rules and policies that run afoul of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. The memo is divided into two parts. In the first, the NLRB compares rules it found lawful with those that are unlawful, and provides its reasoning for both conclusions. The section includes employer rules that are frequently at issue before the agency, addressing issues such as:
- Professionalism and harassment
- Communication with the media
- Restrictions on the use of company logos, copyrights, and trademarks
- Prohibitions on photography and recording (including the possession and use of personal recording devices)
- Restrictions on leaving work
- Conflicts of interest
The second section of the memo addresses handbook rules from a recently settled unfair labor practice charge against Wendy’s International LLC, which followed an initial determination by the NLRB that several of Wendy’s handbook rules were unlawful.
Consistently with prior GC memos, the differences between rules and policies the NLRB found lawful and unlawful were not always obvious, or even consistent with each other or past interpretations. Nevertheless, the memo is worth reviewing as a summary of the NLRB’s current thinking and should serve as a reminder to employers that, if they have not updated their handbooks in a while, this is a good time to do it.
Employers that take such advice to heart should also keep in mind the NLRB’s recent reversal of the longstanding precedent under which employers were permitted to ban employees from using the company’s email system for non-business purposes. In Purple Communications, Inc., decided December 11, 2014, the NLRB held that employers given access to the company’s email system must be permitted to use the system for communications protected under Section 7 during non-working time, unless the employer can show that special circumstances exist (most will not be able to make the required showing).
You can review our previous coverage of NLRB actions on rules, policies, and settlement terms here and here and here. You can also find more in depth coverage on our website, here (see part 7, Employer Confidentiality Policies Under Attack by Federal Agencies).
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