Earlier this spring, in a 3-1 vote, the Board issued a notice and solicited briefs on whether to reconsider Johnnie’s Poultry doctrine (doctrine), which was established in the 1964 Board decision, Johnnie’s Poultry Co. The doctrine balances the legitimate need of the employer to question employees as part of its investigation of facts and preparation of its defense for the litigation of unfair labor charges in administrative hearings against the employees’ right to engage in protected activity or otherwise exercise their statutory rights under section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (Act). To minimize the risk of coercive behavior levied against employees during the interviews, the doctrine establishes safeguards that limit the scope and manner of  employers’ interviews with employees. Chair McFerran, the sole Democrat on the Board, opposes reconsideration of the doctrine and dissented from the notice.
Continue Reading NLRB Decision to Reconsider Johnnie’s Poultry Doctrine Remains Pending

In episode 2 of the Labor Law Insider podcast, Husch Blackwell Attorneys Tom Godar, Rufino Gaytán, and Kat Pearlstone discuss the impacts of the impending policy shift on employer policies and workplace rules regarding:

  • Employee access to IT systems for  nonwork-related communications;
  • Facially neutral workplace rules that negatively impact protected concerted activity;
  • Confidentiality obligations during

The saga of Scabby the Rat continues with the transition of the Biden administration and the recent unceremonious ouster of now-former General Counsel Robb. The debate focuses on whether the presence of Scabby, the large inflatable rat, and large banners at the site of a neutral secondary employer constitute lawful secondary protest activity or is unlawful picketing or coercive conduct.
Continue Reading The Nine Lives of Scabby the Rat

As the 2020 general election approaches with many employees working remotely and participating on social media platforms, employers can anticipate that employees will engage in political speech and activity in the workplace. Political speech includes a wide spectrum of activities beyond communicating by written or spoken words on a political topic. Other forms of expression that constitute political speech include wearing clothing or other accoutrements endorsing or opposing a person, party or issue; engaging in symbolic speech such as participating in demonstrations; contributing to campaigns; handing out campaign literature; and at least one court has held that “liking” a post on Facebook is political speech. This election year, acrimonious partisan politics, a global pandemic, and economic and social issues that have impacted nearly every worker have generated strong opinions about candidates and issues. Opinions expressed in this highly politicized atmosphere though, can undermine worker productivity or even result in claims of harassment, discrimination, retaliation or a hostile work environment.

As a result, employers face the complicated legal and practical issue of lawfully regulating speech in the workplace to ensure that the workforce remains productive and respectful of the rights and differences of co-workers. Maintaining a productive and harmonious workforce requires that employers understand the limits on their right to regulate or impose rules that limit political speech and expression in the workplace and enforce the rules in a lawful manner. The nature of the lawful restrictions that an employer can impose depends on the designation of the employer as either a public-sector or private-sector employer. While this post will discuss restrictions on both types of employers, the main focus is on the right of private-sector employers to limit political activity in the workplace.
Continue Reading Understanding Employers’ Right to Impose Limits on Political Activities in the Workplace

On July 21, 2020, the NLRB released the decision General Motors LLC and Charles Robinson (GM) which is significant not only for its substance but for its timing. The GM decision held that abusive conduct and speech is not protected §7 activity and applied the burden-shifting rule under the Wright Line standard to evaluate challenged disciplinary actions connected with §7 activity. In a time of social tension amid protests against racism and sexism, the decision permits employers to require civility and peace in the workplace while it simultaneously protects employees’ civil and labor rights.

Continue Reading Long Awaited – Abusive Conduct Is Not Protected Activity

When a workforce organizes a union and a labor contract is still months away, human resource issues continue to arise. Often the issue turns on whether the employer has an obligation to bargain with the new union prior to the imposition of workplace discipline. Prior to 2016, under long-settled case law, employers had no statutory

During the last half of May 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (Board) issued four decisions upholding the legality of employer facially neutral work rules. Two of the decisions applied the Boeing standard to assess the legality of work rules or policies while the other two decisions restored past precedent to find that an employers’ property rights outweighed employees’ right to engage in protected activities under §7 of the National Labor Relations Act (Act). The key highlights of those decisions, including guidance on  drafting work rules and policies that are lawful under the Boeing standard, are summarized below.
Continue Reading NLRB Decisions Restore Employers’ Right to Use Work Rules to Control Workplace

Key Points

  • Media policies which prohibit employees from communicating with the media must be narrowly tailored to protect legitimate business interests such as protecting confidential information and controlling statements made on behalf of the employer; and
  • Media policies that specifically exclude communications by employees that are not made on behalf of the employer and that