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

On March 16, 2020, the Board issued its decision in Baylor University Medical Center and Dora S. Camacho reversing the 2018 ALJ decision and holding that Confidentiality and No Participation in Third-Party Claim provisions in a voluntary severance agreement are lawful. The decision overrules Clark Distribution System, Shamrock Foods Co., and Metro Networks to the extent the holdings extend beyond their fact patterns involving employees who were unlawfully dismissed for exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (Act).
Continue Reading Confidentiality and No-Participation Provisions in Voluntary Severance Agreements Lawful

Husch Blackwell issued a client legal alert regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit v. NLRB, which resulted in the denial of collective bargaining rights to adjunct faculty members employed by Duquesne University, a religious university. In summary, the court held that the

On September 6, 2019, the NLRB (Board) issued the decision, Kroger Limited Partnership I Mid-Atlantic and United Food and Commercial Workers Union 400 (Kroger decision), which overruled Sandusky Mall Co., and limited the right of nonemployee union agents to access employer property for the purpose of union solicitations. The 3-1 decision, split along

Key Points

  • Direct evidence of a plan to engage in repeated strikes to achieve a common goal establishes that such strikes are unprotected, intermittent strikes.
  • Only in the absence of direct evidence will the Board consider extenuating circumstances to evaluate whether multiple strikes constitute protected activity.

On July 25, 2019, a majority of the NLRB

In a notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comments published on August 12, 2019, the NLRB exercised its discretionary rulemaking authority to propose changes to three discretionary election bar policies:

  • The blocking charge policy,
  • The voluntary election bar policy, and
  • For the construction industry only, the contract bar policy.

These policies currently bar, for