You Can’t Require Employees To Be Positive And Professional At Work

By September 8, 2016Articles

Requiring your employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner and maintain a positive workplace is an unfair labor practice according to the National Labor Relations Board.

In the case of T-Mobile USA, Inc. and Communications Workers of American Local 7011, AFL-CIO, 363 NLRB No. 171 (2016) the NLRB found that several of T-Mobile’s work place rules in their employee handbook were unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act. T-Mobile’s rule on a positive work environment (which universally all employers want) stated that the company “expects all employees to behave in a professional manner that promotes efficiency, productivity, and cooperation.   Employees are expected to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to the effective working relationships with internal and external customers, clients, co-workers and management.”

Sounds logical and reasonable to expect a positive work environment, yes?  Not so fast ruled the NRLB.  The board invalidated the rule  concluding that “employees would reasonably construe the rule to restrict potentially controversial or contentious communications and discussions, including  those protected by Section 7 of the [NLRA] out of fear that the [company] would deem them to be inconsistent with a “positive work environment.”

The board also struck down another provision in the employee handbook that prohibited recordings in the workplace.  The T-Mobile rule stated: “To prevent harassment, maintain individual privacy, encourage open communication, and protect confidential information employees are prohibited from recording people or confidential information using cameras, camera phones/devices, or recording devices (audio or video) in the workplace. Apart from customer calls that are recorded for quality purposes, employees may not tape or otherwise make sound recordings of work related or workplace discussions.  Exceptions maybe granted when participating in an authorized TMUS activity or with permission from an employee’s Manager, HR Business Partner, or the Legal Department. If an exception is granted, employees may not take a picture, audiotape, or videotape in the workplace without the prior notification of all participants.”

Without any proof, the NLRB found that T-Mobile’s no-recording rule was overbroad and illegally restricted an employee’s right to engage in protected concerted activity under Section 7 of the NLRA.