NLRB Holds Employer's Standards of Conduct Policy to be Unlawful Restrictions to Protected Concerted Activity

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The National Labor Relations Board recently issued a decision in Hills and Dales General Hospital and Danielle Corlis, Case 07-CA-053556 (Apr. 1, 2014)  In their decision the Board held that portions of the employer's standards of conduct policy were unlawful restrictions against protected concerted activity.  The Employer's Values and Standards of Behavior Policy included the following provisions:  paragraph 11 states that employees will not make “negative comments about our fellow team members,” including coworkers and managers; paragraph 16 states that employees will “represent [the Respondent] in the community in a positive and professional manner in every opportunity;” and paragraph 21 states that employees “will not engage in or listen to negativity or gossip.”

Unlike the Administrative Law Judge who found that paragraph 16 did not violate the employees' rights to protected activity, the Board found that all three paragraphs violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act.  The Board stated that the requirement that employees “represent [the Respondent] in the community in a positive and professional manner” is just as overbroad and ambiguous as the proscription of “negative comments” and “negativity” in paragraphs 11 and 21. Particularly when considered in context with these other unlawful paragraphs, employees would reasonably view the language in paragraph 16 as proscribing them from engaging in any public activity or making any public statements (i.e., “in the community”) that are not perceived as “positive” towards the Respondent on work-related matters.  The Board ordered the employer to revise or rescind the paragraphs in its Behavior Policy.

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