The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently issued a ruling applying the Boeing test to uphold a California employer’s workplace rules. The Boeing test, adopted in late-2017, allows for a fairer, less restrictive approach to whether an employer’s workplace policies infringe on its employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). See our prior article on the NLRB’s adoption of the Boeing test here.
In this case, the Teamsters, Local 70, challenged two workplace rules enforced by the employer, L.A. Specialty Produce Company, a Los Angeles food wholesaler. The first rule required employees not to disclose confidential client and vendor lists. The NRLB held that an objectively reasonable employee would not interpret the rule as potentially interfering with their rights, noting that the rule did not prevent employees from exercising their right to appeal to customers in labor disputes because, while it barred workers from sharing the lists, it did not prevent them from speaking to the businesses named on the lists about their concerns. Additionally, the NLRB said the rule allowed employees to disclose the names of customer and vendors to third parties like the union, and only prohibited disclosure of client/vendor lists and other nonpublic, proprietary records (e.g., accounting records, production processes, marketing information, etc.).
The second rule targeted by the Teamsters was the Employer’s Media Contact Rule. The law generally protects employees when they speak with the media about working conditions, labor disputes, or other terms and conditions of employment. In upholding the rule, the NLRB explained that reasonable workers would not interpret the rule to prevent them from exercising their right to bring their labor concerns to the media, because they were only prohibited from talking on behalf of the company if approached by the media. The employer was permitted to designate its President as the official spokesperson to answer questions from the media on behalf of the company. Because the rule does not prevent employees from reaching out to the media about their own legitimate issues, it does not violate the law.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
Prior to the adoption of the Boeing test, rules like these likely would have been struck down by the NLRB. Common sense outcomes like the one in this case are a welcome and refreshing change for employers, and future NLRB cases applying the Boeing test are likely to continue this positive trend. If you have any questions or concerns about your company’s Employee Handbook, workplace rules and procedures, contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.