National Labor Relations Board Determines Language of Employer Policy Could Violate NLRA

Thursday, May 1, 2014
The National Labor Relations Board recently made a ruling in Hills and Dales General Hospital, Case 07-CA-053556 (April 1, 2014).  The case involved the employer's Values and Standards of Behavior Policy.  Three paragraphs of the policy came under scrutiny because of the broad nature of the language.  "[P]aragraph 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.”

The NLRB found that the language of the policy was overbroad and ambiguous. By including the aforementioned language in its employee handbook, the employer was discouraging employees from engaging in protected public protests of unfair labor practices, or from making statements to third parties protesting their terms and conditions of employment—activity that may not be “positive” towards the employer but is clearly protected by Section 7 of the NLRA.  Similarly, the Board found that the language of paragraph 16 could potentially violate Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.  
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