The National Labor Relations Board has again reminded employers that its policies must not have a “chilling” effect on employees’ rights that are guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act. The agency has been very active lately in reviewing employer policies, typically found in employee handbooks, and challenging those it believes may violate the Act.
At issue is Section Seven of the law that guarantees employees the right to engage in concerted activity to further their pay and working conditions. Most recently, Verizon was charged with having policies relating to e-mail communications that could restrain employees from engaging in protected activity.
The Verizon Code of Conduct prohibited employees from using company e-mail systems for soliciting and fundraising purposes, including during non-working hours. The law judge found that this restriction could be interpreted by employees as prohibiting them from communicating with one another about labor organizations.
Previously, the Board, in a case involving Purple Communications, ruled that employers could not ban the use of company e-mail for purposes deemed by the company to be non-business related. Again, the Board’s position was that this could have discouraged communications regarding concerted activity.
The key point for an employee to remember is that employer policies must specify the prohibited behaviors or actions. Further, it must be clear that the prohibitions relate only to behaviors or actions that do not relate to pay or working conditions. The common theme of the Board’s findings is that policies may not be so broad that a reasonable employee could interpret them to prohibit protected activity.
It is important also that both employees and employers remember that the NLRB’s jurisdiction is not limited to workplaces that are already unionized. The NLRA applies to all private businesses, while it does not have authority over state and local governments. Its primary goal is to ensure that employees in the private sector have the right to seek and keep union representation if that is the will of those employees. Contact us today to speak with a professional general labor law attorney in Sacramento.
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