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NLRB Takes Aim at Employee Handbooks

Overly broad handbook provisions threaten employee rights to engage in “protected concerted activity,” NLRB report warns.

On March 18, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel issued a report concerning employer rules that highlights a number of recent cases in which the NLRB found employee handbook provisions that violate the National Labor Relations Act.

The report noted that some handbook provisions are overly broad and may, sometimes indirectly, impact employee rights to engage in certain kinds of employee activity – known as “protected concerted activity” – under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Protected concerted activity generally involves employee rights to discuss wages, hours and working conditions. These rights also encompass the right of employees to make comments critical of the company. 

The report discusses handbook provisions in areas such as confidentiality, professionalism, anti-harassment, media contact, photography in the workplace, and trademark. It also provides examples of language that were found to be problematic and compares that with language deemed compliant.

Finally, the report provides useful guidance to employers about what can and cannot be lawfully contained in employee handbooks. Employers seeking to ensure that their policies appropriately address these issues should review the report.