Does Your Employee Handbook Violate the National Labor Relations ACT?

June 2, 2015

Over the past several years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been taking a more active role in the non-union workplace, including decisions on whether provision of employers’ handbooks or work rules violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The primary issue in these cases is whether specific provisions have a “chilling effect” on employees’ exercise of their Section 7 rights under the NLRA.  In a recent memorandum, the General Counsel for the NLRB reviewed the handbook issue with numerous examples of illegal and legal handbook provisions.  Here are some examples of handbook provisions which the NLRB determined were illegal or unlawful:

  • Do not discuss customer or employee information outside of work, including phone numbers and addresses.
  • You must not disclose proprietary or confidential information about the employer or other associates if the proprietary or confidential information relating to the associates was obtained in violation of law or lawful company policy.
  • Do not disclose confidential financial data, or other non-public proprietary company information.  Do not share confidential information regarding business partners, vendors, or customers.
  • Be respectful to the company, other employees, customers, partners, or competitors. 
  • No defamatory, libelous, slanderous, or discriminatory comments about the company, its customers, and/or competitors, its employees, or management.
  • Disrespectful conduct or insubordination, including, but not limited to, refusing to follow orders from a supervisor or a designated representative.
  • Do not make statements that damage the company or the company’s reputation or that disrupt or damage the company’s business relationships. 
  • Do not make insulting, embarrassing, hurtful, or abusive comments about other company employees online, and avoid the use of defensive, derogatory, or prejudicial comments. 
  • Do not send unwanted, offensive, or inappropriate e-mails.
  • Material that is fraudulent, harassing, embarrassing, sexually explicit, profane, obscene, intimidating, defamatory, or otherwise unlawful or inappropriate may not be sent by e-mail.
  • Employees are not authorized to speak to any representatives of the print and/or electronic media about company matters unless designated to do so by HR, and must refer all media inquiries to the company and media hotline. 
  • Do not use any company logos, trademarks, graphics, or advertising materials on social media.
  • Do not use other people’s properties, such as trademarks, without permission on social media.
  • Taking unauthorized pictures or video on company property is prohibited.
  • Prohibition from wearing cell phones, making personal calls, or viewing or sending texts while on duty.
  • Failure to report to your scheduled shift for more than three consecutive days without prior authorization or walking off the job during a scheduled shift is prohibited. 
  • Employees may not engage in any action that is not in the best interest of the employer.

All of the above rules have been found to violate the NLRA because they would tend to “chill” employees’ exercise of their Section 7 rights under the NLRA. 

Would your employee handbook or work rules pass muster with the NLRB?


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