NLRB: Beware of Overly Broad Media and Confidentiality Policies

The NLRB continues to be very active in evaluating employee handbook provisions that may impact the rights of union and non-union employees to engage in protected, concerted activity under Section 7 of the NLRA.

A three member panel recently issued its decision in DirectTV U.S. DirecTV Holdings LLC and struck down several of the company’s employee handbook provisions.  The NLRB declared the employer’s media policy, which prohibited employees from contacting the media, to be overly broad and unlawful because it could be reasonably construed by employees to limit the Section 7 right to discuss labor disputes with media.  Consistent with several other recent decisions, the NLRB found that the employer’s policy made no attempt to distinguish between protected and unprotected activity.  Furthermore, the employer’s policy required that employees obtain authorization from the employer prior to making comments regarding the employer to media.  The Board found this requirement to be unlawful, holding that the employer may not require an employee to obtain permission to engage in protected, concerted off-duty activity.

The NLRB also struck down the employer’s handbook provision on the employer’s confidentiality rules, which prohibited employees from discussing details about the job, company business, or projects with anyone outside the company.  The Board found this provision to be unlawful because employees could reasonably understand the rule to prohibit employees from discussing wages and other terms and conditions of employment.  The Board also believed the employer’s rule could be reasonably understood to prevent employees from communicating with union representatives, NLRB agents, or other government agencies regarding workplace issues, which provided an additional basis for its determination.

Employers should evaluate internal policies and employee handbooks to ensure that all company rules are consistent with legal developments.  For additional information on how DirectTV U.S. DirecTV Holdings LLC impacts your media, confidentiality, and other employee handbook provisions, contact a member of the Labor and Employment Practice team.

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