If you employ people in your business, you have rules and policies that apply to your workplace and staff. Did you know there are very specific guidelines you must follow to insure those rules are legal?
The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) General Counsel recently issued a memorandum setting forth its interpretation of when employer rules may conflict with Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Section 7 specifically gives employees the right to organize, bargain collectively, and to engage in other activities for the purposes of mutual aid and protection. Put another way – employees have the federally protected right to act on behalf of themselves and other employees in the areas of wages, hours and other terms of employment – regardless of whether your business is represented by a union, or not.
Activities deemed lawfully protected by the NRLB include such things as complaining about benefits, discipline, pay, seeking union support on various matters, walking off the job, picketing and more.
Section 7 specifies that it is unlawful for an employer to interfere with an employee’s rights in these areas.
Here are three specific areas addressed by the General Counsel’s recent memo:
- Policies that prohibit or interfere with employee discussion about wages, hours, or work complaints are deemed forbidden by the NLRB.
- Employees have the right to criticize employer labor policies or treatment of employees – either publically or privately. The NLRB has stated that no rules may be established that prohibit employees from engaging in disrespectful, negative, inappropriate or rude conduct towards an employer or management when discussing wages, hours and other terms of employment.
- Employees have the legal right to talk to government officials, the news media, and other third parties about matters relating to their employment that are not otherwise confidential or protected from disclosure by law or agreement. However, employers do have the right to control who may serve as an “official” spokesperson for their company.
NLRB rules can be challenging and even confusing at times – and this latest memo is no exception. Also, it remains unclear whether the NLRB’s interpretation of prohibited employer policies under Section 7 will ultimately be upheld if challenged in the courts. Nevertheless, should you have questions about Section 7 or any other aspect of employment and labor law – contact an experienced employment and labor law firm for guidance.
Each of the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale have over twenty years of experience with these matters. And we are Connecticut’s leading employer defense law firm. Contact us if we can help you.
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