NLRB: Handbook Courtesy Rule Unlawful
The October 4 SHRM.org article "NLRB: Handbook Courtesy Rule Unlawful" quoted Chicago attorney Peter Gillespie about company policies regarding online comments made by employees. In a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that condoned the firing of a BMW salesman over his Facebook comments, the employee challenged not only his termination, but also language in the company employee handbook promoting common courtesy. The board ruled that the car dealership's courtesy rule violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Peter noted that in striking down the courtesy rule, the board's suggestion that employers should not have broadly written policies does not mean employers are prohibited from acting on employee online conduct that really is insulting. "It's important for employers to set ground rules about employees on online forums." Employers should word the ground rules carefully. Policies also might include a disclaimer noting that the employer is not prohibiting concerted activity protected by the NLRA. But, he added, more guidance from the courts and the NLRB is needed. There "still is not a clear line" about when negative or harsh employee comments posted online are protected concerted activity.