The NLRB trashes positive workplaces as being unfriendly to unions

The NLRB continues with decisions that set back progress in employee relations.
The NLRB continues with decisions that set back progress in employee relations.

In what can only be described as an absurd decision the NLRB has punished a company for having a “positive workplace” statement in their employee handbook.

T-Mobile’s language

This case involved the communications company T-Mobile which has union employees. According to attorney Christopher Grey, of  Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista Co.

The NLRB has taken another step toward the absurd with a new decision finding an employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (“the Act”) by using language which encouraged employees to maintain a positive workplace.”

The policy in question in the handbook read: “Employees are expected to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships with clients, co-workers and management.”  That is NOT an uncommon statement in many company employee handbooks these days. However the NLRB found the language to be too vague and thus employees might be “chilled” from engaging in communication with each other regarding union activity.

“labor disputes and union organizing efforts may result in less-than-positive statements about the employment environment

The reasoning on this? The NLRB said, according to Grey, is that “because labor disputes and union organizing efforts may result in less-than-positive statements about the employment environment, T-Mobile’s employees would be hesitant to engage in such activities out of fear of violating T-Mobile’s rule.”

The unfortunate conclusion

Mr. Gray, in his conservative lawyer advice is forced to tell companies that “Employers should be hesitant to utilize language advocating for employees to be positive in their communications, and instead should consider policies which prohibit acts of insubordination or conduct that interferes with client relations.” In my opinion it is unfortunate that Gray’s advice has to be this. The NLRB is forcing companies to go backward in employee relations by punishing companies for being positive and trying to engender positive relationships with employees. By the way Gray does advise that this decision can, and most likely will, be applied to nonunion companies.

Wrong message in the wrong age.

I am dismayed that at a time when union membership is at a low point, because employees do not see any value in that archaic structure, that the government uses its power to force companies to move in the direction of negative relationships with its employees. Wrong message in the wrong age.

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