Best Practices Tip: Employee Handbooks and the NLRB


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has come down hard on employers over the 18 months regarding language in employee handbooks that the NLRB views as discouraging employees’ exercise of their rights to organize.   While some employers may not realize it, all employers, regardless of whether their workforce is unionized, are subject to provisions of the National Labor Relations Act that prohibits unfair labor practices, including an employer infringing on employee’s rights to protected concerted activity. 

A few examples of unlawful handbook language include:

  1. “Do not discuss "customer or employee information" outside of work, including "phone numbers [and] addresses." 
  2. "You must not disclose proprietary or confidential information about [the Employer, or] other associates (if the proprietary or confidential 5 information relating to [the Employer's] associates was obtained in violation of law or lawful Company policy)."
  3. "Discuss work matters only with other [Employer] employees who have a specific business reason to know or have access to such information.. .. Do not discuss work matters in public places."
  4.  "[I]f something is not public information, you must not share it."

Source:  GC 15-04, Report of the General Counsel Concerning Employer Rules, March 18, 2015

The key is whether the language could potentially discourage employees from discussing work conditions and pay and/or has the impact of discouraging employees from any concerted activity (i.e., organizing together to change working conditions).  Organizing can be as simple as two or more employees getting together and talking about their work conditions or pay.

Refer to the full ‘Report of the General Counsel’ listed above for an explanation about these requirements.  If you have not reviewed your employee handbook policies in the last several years, we recommend doing so in light of the NLRB’s developing position on these issues.