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Overly broad employee handbook rules that restrict employees from engaging in protected concerted activities are invalid under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
At issue were rules that 1) prohibited employees from discussing matters under investigation, 2) limited disclosure of information from the employer’s electronic communication and information systems, 3) prohibited activities other than work during working hours, and 4) urged employees to make complaints to their supervisors rather than to fellow employees. The court struck down the first three rules as too broad in scope.
The court stated that the blanket restriction of discussions in the first rule went too far in covering any matter under investigation, although it noted that confidential inquiries are important for preserving privacy. As for the second rule, the court stated that a reasonable employee could interpret it as a prohibition on sharing any information with other employees about employment terms and conditions.
Because work rules that could be interpreted as restricting employees from engaging in protected concerted activity will likely be struck down if challenged under the NLRA, be proactive in making revisions to your policies.
In interpreting the third rule, the court deemed “working hours” to include breaks and therefore concluded that the rule encroached on employee activities during break time.
The court upheld the last rule, finding that the language in the handbook was not mandatory and did not prescribe penalties if employees complained to other workers.
Scott M. Abbott is managing partner of Kamer Zucker Abbott, the Worklaw® Network member firm in Las Vegas.
EEOC Granted Broad Right to Employee Data in Bias Investigation
When investigating a sex discrimination charge, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must be given access to personal information about other employees who took the same physical abilities test that was failed by the employee who filed the charge, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The employer must provide the agency with the names, Social Security numbers, home addresses and telephone numbers of all employees who took the test.
Temp Not Entitled to Re-Employment After Military Service
An orthopedic surgeon who signed a one-year employment contract with a hospital and declined regular employment has no claim under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The 6th Circuit determined that USERRA did not apply, finding that temporary employees are not covered by the act’s re-employment rights provisions.
No Bias in College Firing Professor for Rudeness
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an Asian professor’s discrimination claim, confirming an employer’s right to legitimately terminate a rude and confrontational employee, notwithstanding her claims of bias. The court noted that the university maintained policies that required its professors to maintain “satisfactory qualities of personality and character” and relied heavily on the fact that the professor’s lack of collegiality was well-documented in her annual performance reviews.
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