HR pros may want to take a closer look at their employee handbook — and ASAP.
Why? The National Labor Relations Boardâs (NLRB) General Counsel just released a massive report on employee handbooks (and other relevant policies).
Both union and non-union workplaces
Specifically, the report outlined handbook content thatâs lawful â and that which is likely to violate the National Labor Relations Act.
The report, which includes examples and recent NLRB decisions, applies to all employers regardless of whether or not they have union-represented employees.
In general, when handbooks contain vague or overly broad statements, employers are setting themselves up for problems.
Here are some of the major handbook areas listed in the report as well as specific examples of what the NLRB considers overly broad (i.e., potentially illegal) and what it will likely find lawful, courtesy of the folks at The Employer Handbook:
1. Confidentiality rules. The feds make it very clear that employees have a right to discuss âwages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.â
But the feds said itâs OK to have âbroad prohibitions on disclosing âconfidentialâ informationâ to protect âthe privacy of certain business informationâ if certain conditions are met.
Here are two examples of language the NLRB considers overly broad:
- Do not discuss âcustomer or employee informationâ outside of work, including âphone numbers [and] addresses.â
- 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.
On the other hand, hereâs an example of confidentiality language that is lawful: No unauthorized disclosure of âbusiness âsecretâ or other confidential information.â
2. Leave restrictions. Because the NLRA puts the ability to strike as one of workersâ fundamental rights, any handbook language that could âregulate when an employee can leave workâ can potentially get firms in trouble, especially if the it contains reference to âwalkoutsâ âdisruptionsâ or strikes. Here are two examples:
- Failure to report to your schedule shift for more than three consecutive days without prior authorization or âwalking off the jobâ during a scheduled shiftâ is prohibited.
- âWalking off the job …â is prohibited.
This language, however, is OK in the NLRBâs eyes: Entering or leaving Company property without permission may result in discharge.
3. Workersâ conduct toward management. The Memorandum reminds firms that workers have the âright to criticize or protest their employerâs labor policies or treatment of employees.â And it highlighted a number of cases where it firms handbook language clearly prevent workers from exercising those rights.
The NLRB considers this overly broad: â[B]e respectful to the company, other employees, customers, partners, and competitors.â
But this statement is lawful: âEach employee is expected to work in a cooperative manner with management/supervision, coworkers, customers and vendors.â
4. Employees’ conduct toward co-workers. In addition to the employee/manager relationship, the NLRB pointed out what type of language should dictate workers’ interactions with one another.
What to avoid:
- “[D]don’t pick fights” online”
- Do not make “insulting, embarrassing, hurtful or abusive comments about other company employees online,” and avoid the use of offensive, derogatory, or prejudicial comments.”
What’s OK: “[T]hreatening, intimidating, coercing, or otherwise interfering with the job performance of fellow employees or visitors.”
The paid sick leave issue
While youâre reviewing the handbook, you may want to consider adding something about the growing trend of mandatory paid sick leave, if you havenât already addressed this.
As HR Morning reported on previously, with the list of cities and municipalities that mandate paid sick leave growing each week, 79.4% of HR pros said they will be addressing this legal trend in their employee handbooks, according to a new study by XpertHR.
For more HR News, please visit: Employee handbooks: Feds spell out what you can, canât include
Source: News from HR Morning