Monday, January 6, 2014

NLRB ALJ Finds College's "No Gossip" Rule Violates the NLRA

Last month in Laurus Technical College, Case 10–CA–093934, ALJ Donna Dawson ruled that Laurus Technical College's "no gossip rule," which led to the termination of the charging party, "chills the exercise of Section 7 activity, and violates Section 8(a)(1)."  The college's "gossip rule" contained the following language:

Gossip is not tolerated at Laurus Technical Institute. Employees that participate in or instigate gossip about the company, an employee, or customer will receive disciplinary action. Gossip is an activity that can drain, corrupt, distract and down-shift the company’s productivity, moral, and overall satisfaction. It has the potential to destroy an individual and is counterproductive to an organization.Most people involved in gossip may not intend to do harm, but gossip can have a negative impact as it has the potential to destroy a person’s or organization’s reputation and credibility... 
Gossip is defined as follows:1) Talking about a person’s personal life when they are not present 2) Talking about a person’s professional life without his/her supervisorpresent 3) Negative, or untrue, or disparaging comments or criticisms of anotherperson or persons 4) Creating, sharing, or repeating information that can injure a person’scredibility or reputation 5) Creating, sharing, or repeating a rumor about another person 6) Creating, sharing or repeating a rumor that is overheard or hearsay... 
If an employee is found to have been involved (instigated, encouraged, or contributed to) gossip against another employee, a written warning is provided to the employee and the employee is directed to immediately cease the gossip...Further incidents will result in further disciplinary action and may include termination.
In finding this rule violated the NLRA, ALJ Dawson, as part of the remedy, reversed the charging party's termination and ordered it be removed from her personnel file.  This is a very encouraging decision as a lot of employers may not often create a policy or rule like Laurus Technical College did in this case but employers do often tell employees not to talk about certain things in the workplace whenever there's disruption or an issue, which is likewise often violative of the NLRA.

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