The vast majority of workplaces in the United States fall under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Per their website, the NLRB is “an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative.” The NLRB also “acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”
It is very important for employers to review their employee handbooks each year and make sure that their company’s policies are in line with the regulations implemented by the NLRB. This review will be particularly important in the coming year, as the NLRB is currently reviewing the legality of many long-standing labor policies in nonunionized workplaces. Largely, they are focusing on policies that can be considered overly broad or could be interpreted as infringing on employee rights. These include:
- Policies requiring “respectful” or “appropriate” conduct without defining what these mean.
- Policies prohibiting “gossiping” or “fraternization” between employees without defining what these mean.
- Confidentiality policies which restrict employees from discussing their salaries or any company disciplinary actions against them.
- Policies involving in-house grievance procedures.
- Dress codes which disallow wearing union insignia.
- Policies limiting employee social media use.
- Anti-bullying policies which are so broad they can be interpreted as limiting free speech.
- Policies prohibiting employees from “disparaging” their employer without defining what this means.
Policies which disallow “inappropriate” online postings without defining what this means.
As you can see, labor relations law has a great deal of complexity to it. The best way to make sure your company is fully in compliance is to have an attorney specializing in this field review your company’s policies. A good place to start is by giving a thorough review to any policies that deal with employee verbal or written communication.