NLRB Prohibits Ban of "Negative Conversations"

July, 2005

The National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"), the federal agency that enforces the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), recently held that an employer's overbroad work rule prohibiting employees from having "negative conversations" about their managers violated the federal labor law. In Claremont Resort and Spa (June, 2005), the NLRB held that a non-union employer violated the NLRA by maintaining a work rule prohibiting employees from having "negative conversations" about their managers.

The NLRB concluded that employees could reasonably construe this rule to "bar them from discussing with their co-workers complaints about their managers that affect working conditions, thereby causing employees to refrain from engaging in protected activities." The NLRB focused on the fact that the work rule was overbroad and did not define "negative conversations." If an employer is found to have violated this rule, it could be ordered to post a remedial notice to employees at any and all facilities affected by the rule stating that it violated a federal law protecting its employees' right to unionize or refrain from unionizing.

Many employers fail to regularly review their employee handbooks and other work rules under the misconceptions that "our lawyers wrote it a few years ago" or "we've never had any problems with the rules." Other employers just don't make it a priority in light of more pressing business demands. As this case illustrates, it is essential that employers regularly review their work rules to ensure legal compliance with local, state and federal laws. For assistance with your handbook, call Cascade.


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