The General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued a memorandum earlier this year warning employers of employee handbook language the Board considers unlawful. Agency staff had reviewed a number of employers’ handbooks and identified examples of provisions that were considered to be contrary to provisions of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Section 7 protects concerted activities by employees who are seeking to improve their pay and working conditions. According to the memorandum, if you as an employee understand a handbook rule to say that you cannot do a certain thing that you feel helps improve wages, then that rule is unlawful. For example, if a rule says that employees may not discuss other employees’ personnel information among themselves, it may mean you cannot talk about how much money employees are paid. That rule would be illegal according the NLRB because discussing specifics of workers’ wages would be necessary to improving overall pay.
Pay is not the only type of issue that the memorandum discussed. It pointed out various handbook policy areas, including confidentiality of information, employee conduct toward the employer, and off-duty social media use. If an employer’s handbook policy says that an employee may not make negative comments about the employer or supervisors on social media, that could be seen by employees as preventing communications needed to improve working conditions . If, on the other hand, the policy restricted statements that threatened violence against company officials, it would likely be considered appropriate.
An important thing for employees to know is that the NLRA does not apply just to employers where the employees are unionized. The Act was passed in the 1930’s to ensure workers’ rights to form or join labor unions. Its purpose was to protect those rights and provide a framework for employees and their employers to follow in exercising those rights. The memorandum issued by the General Counsel demonstrates the NLRB’s continuing vigilance in upholding the principles of the NLRA that were set forth in the early days of the labor union movement. Contact us today to speak with a professional labor law attorney in Sacramento.
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