NLRB: Employees Have Right to Discuss Their Discipline

Once again the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has invalidated an employer’s policy that required confidentiality with respect to personnel matters, when it ruled a few weeks ago that an employee was fired illegally after he refused his employer’s directive not to talk about certain discipline he received.

Philips Electronics North America had employed Lee Craft in its Tennessee facility, and in a few short years it gave Mr. Craft several oral and written reprimands and suspensions, as well as a demotion, for harassment and intimidation of others. On one instance, the company disciplined him for his behavior, giving him a final warning that any future incidents would result in discharge. They also reminded him of a company policy that prohibited employees from discussing discipline with others.

When Craft did discuss his discipline with co-workers, the company fired him for violating the company policy.

The NLRB, however, concluded, consistent with other recent decisions, that employees have a statutory right to discuss their discipline with others, and any policy that attempts to prohibit such activity would be invalid and unenforceable.

Employees have a right, pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act, to engage in “concerted activity” – activity that is in concert with others – intended to protect or promote their interests in their working conditions. The NLRB has taken a very broad view of what kinds of activity constitute “concerted activity.” A number of times, when confronted with an employer policy that prohibits discussion of things such as discipline, wages, benefits, etc., the NLRB has invalidated such policies, concluding that employees are entitled to, and perhaps need to, discuss those topics with one another in order to be able to engage in any kind of meaningful concerted activity.

Certainly, it can be necessary or at least helpful in some circumstances to require that some information be kept confidential, but employers should be careful to make sure they do not run afoul of the NLRA’s protection afforded to concerted activity.

Posted by / September 1, 2014 / 0 Comments
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Labor and Employment Law
Patrick Fanelli

Patrick Fanelli

Mr. Fanelli is a founding partner of Fanelli Willett Law Offices, one of Blair County's newest law firms. Patrick focuses his practice on helping public and private employers navigate the increasingly regulated landscape of labor and employment law, while also serving as a respected school lawyer on behalf of various Pennsylvania school districts and other public entities, which turn to him for assistance in the collective bargaining process or as a general solicitor. Read More about Attorney Fanelli

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