Monday, December 16, 2013

NLRB Judge Finds Employer's "No Gossip Policy" Violates the NLRA

Last week an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that an employer's "No Gossip Policy" violates Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  See Laurus Technical Institute, Case 10-CA-093934, before the National Labor Relations Board, Atlanta Branch Office.  

The non-unionized employer's No Gossip Policy provided that, ""Gossip is not tolerated…Employees that participate in or instigate gossip about the company, an employee, or customer will receive disciplinary action."  The Policy defined "gossip," in part, as:

1.  "Talking about a person's personal life when they are not present."
2.  "Talking about a person's professional life without his/her supervisor present."
3.  "Negative, or untrue, or disparaging comments or criticisms of another person or persons."
4.  "Creating, sharing, or repeating information that can injure a person's credibility or reputation."
5.  "Creating, sharing, or repeating a rumor about another person."
6.  "Creating, sharing or repeating a rumor that is overheard or hearsay…"

The employer allegedly terminated an employee for violating the Policy, and the employee complained of an unfair labor practice.

The ALJ found that the policy, on its face, prohibited protected activity in violation of the NLRA because it was "overly broad, ambiguous, and severely restrict[ed] employees from discussing or complaining about any terms or conditions of employment."  The ALJ further determined that the scope of the Policy banned any discussion about one's personal life, and prohibited "virtually all communications about anyone, including the company or its managers."  

In light of this decision, employers should review their handbooks to determine whether they have any similar policies that could violate the NLRA.

Friday, December 6, 2013

OSHA Launches On-Line Whistleblower Complaint Process

Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 with the purpose of requiring employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment.  It also protects an employee from retaliation for reporting an unsafe work environment, which is often referred to as a "whistleblower complaint."  The law covers most private sector employers, and grants the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the United States Department of Labor, investigation and enforcement authority.

Recently, OSHA provided employees with a new method for lodging whistleblower complaints against employers.  Through a portal on the United States Department of Labor's website, employees can now electronically file whistleblower complaints anonymously, and in any language.  The online form is located at www.whistleblowers.gov.

Employers curious about OSHA's whistleblower investigation process should familiarize themselves with OSHA's Whistleblowers Investigations Manual located on the web page.