NLRB Decision – Quicken’s Employee Handbooks
On April 7, 2016, a National Labor Relations judge found that rules established in the employee manual of Quicken Loans, Inc. and several other related companies interfered with employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
The case begin on February 4, 2015 when Hugh MacEachern filed an unfair labor practice charge against Quicken Loans. He claimed that he had been fired after discussing starting a union at Quicken. After investigating the charge, the NLRB issued a complaint against Quicken Loans and the other entities related to violations found in the rules of the employee handbook. Administrative Law Judge David Goldman reviewed the challenged rules in the employment manual and found that some rules violated the National Labor Relations Act and others did not.
The National Labor Relations Act makes it an unfair labor practice to interfere with employees’ rights to self-organization and collective bargaining. The NLRB has previously held that employees have the right to solicit sympathy or support from the public and that communications with third parties regarding employment are protected.
Judge Goldman analyzed whether the rules in the employment handbook were likely to chill employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act and the exercise of those rights. He found that many of the rules in the handbook were overbroad and unlawful. Judge Goldman found that an employer could still violate the National Labor Relations Act even if the employer did not apply the unlawful rule or did not intend that the rule extend to protected activities.
The NLRB ruling went through each of the challenged rules. Some of the rules in the employee handbook that were held to be violations of the National Labor Relations act include:
- “Think before you Tweet. Or post, comment or pin. What you share can live forever. If it doesn’t belong on the front page of The New York Times, don’t put it online.”
- “All Company emails are to be used solely and exclusively for Company business purposes only and for no other purpose and will be monitored and inspected by the Company on a regular basis.”
- “You shall not photograph or record through any means the Company’s operations, systems, presentations, communications, voicemails, or meetings.”
- “The Company recognizes that team members may desire to display mementos pertaining to family or other personal items. However, nothing can be displayed that is, or could be deemed to be, harmful or offensive to a reasonable person and his or her system of beliefs. Objects that the Company deems inappropriate will not be allowed and must be removed upon request.”
While this case was pending, Quicken rescinded the employee handbook in December 2015. The NLRB ruling required Quicken to post a notice at all of its facilities where the employment manual was used and to distribute the notice electronically to its employees. The judge did dismiss some of allegations of the complaint including rules related to the employer’s proprietary information and conflicts of interest.
Employers may need to evaluate their employee handbooks and policies in order to make sure that they are not in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB appears to be taking a broad view as to what rules may interfere with employees’ rights. This could be concerning to employers.
If you are an employer and have questions about how this NLRB ruling may affect you or if you are an employee and have questions about your rights, contact the experienced business and employment attorneys at Denton Peterson.
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