What Can Employees Talk About At Work?

Policies prohibiting employees from discussing wages, benefits and working conditions with their co-workers, either written in an employee handbook or implied by management, are in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Michigan Workers Organizing Committee vs. EYM King of Michigan, LLC (Case 7-CA-118835)

An Administrative Law Judge found that a Burger King franchise in Detroit, MI violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by threatening to let an employee go for discussing protests while working, for maintaining and enforcing a ‘no solicitation’ rule on employees that prohibited them from being on premises unless they were either working or eating, and by sending a union worker home early for failing to “put pickles on her sandwiches in perfect squares as she was supposed to do.”

Whether employees are represented by a union or not, they have rights under the NLRA which is enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRA was established in 1935 and is a federal law that governs the basic rights of private sector employees.

Section 7 of the NLRA reads “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title].” An employer can’t interfere or retaliate against employees for exercising these rights.

Setting Guidelines on What Can Be Discussed

It is legal for employers to set some guidelines to help limit the types of discussions that happen while employees are working, however, employers cannot prohibit discussions of wages and conditions during working hours if they allow other types of conversation to take place that are unrelated to work.

What is Protected Concerted Activity?

Protected Concerted Activity is defined as “a legal term used in labor policy to define employee protection against employer retaliation. It is a legal principle under the subject of the freedom of association.” An example of protected concerted activity is when two or more employees talk to their employer about wages, benefits, working conditions or other conditions of their employment. An individual employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if (s)he is speaking up for a group of employees.

For more information on the NLRA, check here.

 


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