Legal Newsline

Friday, April 10, 2020

Labor board finds T-Mobile in violation of requiring positive workplace

By Dawn Geske | Aug 1, 2016


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)  — The National Labor Relations Board has found that a mobile phone company has violated the National Labor Relations Act by expecting employees to maintain a positive work environment.

The NLRB recently came down with a decision against T-Mobile, saying its handbook violates the National Labor Relations Act.

In T-Mobile’s handbook is a conduct policy that states that “employees are expected to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships with clients, co-workers and management.”

The NLRB found that this policy is a direct violation under the Act as it can be understood as a means to stop employees from engaging in union activities. The NLRB claims that the language in the handbook is vague and has found that negative statements about the workplace environment may be used by employees when having labor disputes and when organizing to form a union.

It maintains that T-Mobile employees may be afraid to engage in union activities because they would be in violation of the handbook, which could cost them their job.

Employers may now be subject to violations with the NLRB based on their handbooks that promote a positive work environment by maintaining that they employees act accordingly.

“I don’t think employers are going to be able to enforce these policies,” Christopher A. Gray, attorney at Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista Co.,told Legal Newsline.

“I think agreeably there’s a precedent that they would be subject to adverse decisions and discipline by NLRB. Reason being that there’s been a number of decisions that have come out stating that employers aren’t able to control or dictate how employees conduct themselves online or on social media.”

Employers' handbooks may need to undergo a revision to be in compliance with the NLRB based on the violation of T-Mobile. It stands as an indication that this type of policy language can put them in noncompliance with the National Labor Relations Act.

“I think the decision takes it a step further and makes it so that even trying to enforce really basic policies where employers ask [employees] to be civil with one another or professional or maintain respect for one another is going to be impossible to enforce because of this idea that any sort of union activity or union drive activity will result in not being professional or courteous with one another,” Gray said.

Regarding the possibility of the T-Mobile decisions creating more lawsuits against employers for policies that require employees to promote a positive workplace environment, Gray said it could happen.

“I don’t think employers are necessarily very aware of these decisions coming down regarding social media policies and also just conduct and civility policies between employees [and] because of that I think it’s right for actions to be taken against employers," Gray said.

"I don’t think they’re aware of the breadth and scope of these decisions. If people are terminated or adversely affected by these policies, which try to regulate social media conduct and behavior, I think you will see some uptick in lawsuits.”

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National Labor Relations Board