The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took a hard look at a casino’s employee handbook and found that it contained prohibitions that could have a “chilling effect” on workers protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Several sections in the employee handbook were found to violate the NLRA in Casino Pauma v. Unite Here International Union (21-CA-161832). At issue is the “broadness” of the language, meaning that blanket prohibitions on worker behavior that could also be interpreted as limiting the right to organize or otherwise to participate in a union is in violation.
Social Media Policy in Violation
Casino Pauma recognizes the importance and prevalence of electronic media in our work and personal lives. To assist in addressing employment related concerns that may arise from use of electronic media, Casino Pauma sets forth the following Social Media Policy to guide your actions. Casino Pauma’s Team Members are responsible for the content they publish on social networking websites, blogs or any other form or user-generated media. Keep in mind that everything you publish will be online for a long time, perhaps a lifetime! If you publish content to any blog or website and it has to do with work, use a disclaimer such as: “The postings on this site are my own and do not represent my employer’s positions, strategies or opinions. If you do publish content regarding Casino Pauma, always identify yourself – State your name and (when relevant) your position at Casino Pauma.
When discussing Casino Pauma or employment related matters you must write in the first person (i.e. “I am commenting about”), and make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of Casino Pauma. Don’t cite or reference guests, vendors, clients or Team Members without their approval. If you do have approval, link back to source when possible. Cite references when possible.
Don’t provide confidential, proprietary information and/or trade secrets. Failure to safeguard confidential information may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination (emphasis in the original).
Why is the Social Media Policy in Violation? The NLRB found the policy unlawful because it:
- Requires employees when referring to “employment related concerns” in social media to provide a disclaimer, identify themselves and their job positions.
- Refrain from mentioning guests, vendors, clients or fellow employees without their approval.
Those limitations could be interpreted by employees to restrict the free exercise of their Section 7 right to comment to fellow employees and others, including union representatives, about their work-related complaints concerning wages, hours and working conditions.
Photography Policy in Violation
When posting photos, always obtain approval and never use photos gathered throughout the course of your career at Casino Pauma. Photos taken or obtained at Casino Pauma are the sole property of the casino and are not permitted to be used for personal use.
Why is the Photography Policy in Violation? The NLRB found the policy unlawful because it:
- Bans posting photos without employer’s approval.
The broad language of the rule technically would prohibit an employee from drawing attention to unsafe conditions in the workplace by alerting management, obtaining the support of coworkers, or to report unsafe conditions to government agencies.
Conducting Personal Business in Violation
You are expected to use Casino Pauma’s property only for business purposes. Personal use is generally prohibited of Casino Pauma’s supplies or equipment, such as telephones, fax machines, computers or repair equipment and supplies. Generally, any Team Member found using Casino Pauma equipment or supplies for personal use will be subject to discipline, up to and including immediate termination. As part of this policy, Team Members are reminded they should only be on Casino Pauma property when conducting Casino Pauma business. Visitation by friends and family members should be kept to a minimum. All visitors should use main entrances to gain visitor passes if necessary. Team members are to conduct only Casino Pauma business while at work. Team members may not conduct personal business or business for another employer during their scheduled working hours.
Why is the Personal Business Policy in Violation? The NLRB found the policy unlawful because it:
- Restricts off-duty employees from engaging in protected activity.
- Prohibits protected activity during nonworking time.
Employees have the protected right under Section 7 of the NLRA to solicit and distribute literature to fellow employees on behalf of unions or other common interests dealing with wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment, so long as the solicitation is during non-work time and the distribution is not in work areas.
Solicitation Policy in Violation
Soliciting Casino Pauma’s Team Members, suppliers, or guests to purchase goods or services of any kind, or to make contributions to any organizations or in support of any causes, unless the General Manger has granted written approval in advance.
Why is the Solicitation Policy in Violation? The NLRB found the policy unlawful because it:
- Prohibits employee solicitation “in support of any causes.”
- Requires pre-approval by management.
The language is broad enough to apply to protected solicitation of coworkers on behalf of unions or other common interests as protected in Section 7 of the NLRA. Requiring written approval from management in advance is an unlawful restriction.
If these sections look a little too familiar because they read like your own employee handbook, it’s time to consult with your compliance attorney and adjust accordingly.
Do you need a template for success?
Check out the free Social Media Policy download – the first one approved by the NLRB. That will give you a head start when updating your employee handbook!