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At a recent labor conference, the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) general counsel, Richard Griffin, spoke about his priorities and offered interesting insights into his views of the Board’s direction. Unfortunately, those insights reveal a telling disconnect between the proclivities of the activist Board and the business realities facing the employers it regulates, and one particular comment he made caught this writer’s attention.
During a question and answer period at the event, the general counsel reportedly decried “surprisingly ubiquitous” rules that employers adopt, rules which he asserts run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In particular, he described it as “frustrating” that many employers adopt rules against discussing wages and compensation, despite NLRB case law that proscribes such policies.
Griffin might be frustrated by employers, but he might take a moment to consider the intense frustration employers feel towards the NLRB. For the last several years, the NLRB’s activist majority has created ubiquitous examples of tortured logic and wildly expansive interpretations of the NLRA that continue to vex businesses. The Board has done so even when courts have ruled against them. One of the more exasperating uses of the Board’s considerable power has been its campaign to invalidate the most basic business practices as outlined in employee handbooks under the logic that they might somehow dissuade an employee from engaging in concerted activity.
As a result of this mission creep, the NLRB has told employers that it is illegal to prohibit employees from:
- Engaging in insubordination to a manager, acting discourteously towards customers or other employees; and showing disrespect to guests, including the use of profanity and negative comments or actions.
- Making disparaging statements about their employer.
- Discussing sensitive allegations of employee misconduct.
- Revealing confidential financial information, credit card numbers, social security number or employee personal health information, some of which is illegal to disseminate anyway.
- Unauthorized posting, or the distribution, removal or alteration of materials on company property.
- Revealing customer information.
- Engaging in “boisterous” behavior at the workplace.
The list goes on, in no small part because rules against these types of behavior are indeed ubiquitous, though in the real world they are often referred to as common sense. Yet, the NLRB’s cognitive dissonance regarding what it takes to operate a business effectively has been on full display for several years now as it has sought to inhibit anything of the kind. Sadly, the bizarro world results have generated far more frustration for employers than anyone at the NLRB seems able to comprehend.