Termination of an employee for telling coworkers about a job posting she believed was for an existing job with their Oregon employer was illegal, ruled the National Labor Relations Board. The advertisement did not list the employer, but from the description the employee believed it was her employer, a nonunion company. A coworker who heard the employee believed his job was in jeopardy. When the coworker took his concerns to the company, the company confronted the employee. The company concluded the employee had been “untrustworthy” and fired her. The employer also told coworkers that the woman had been fired for “gossiping.”
The Board focused on the fact that the conversations generally centered on job security. The Board said the employee’s action constituted “protected concerted activity,” and the employer was prohibited from taking disciplinary action. Protected concerted activity includes communication or activities by employees that address wages, hours, or working conditions when done for mutual aid and benefit. The Board stated that because the conversation in this case involved job security, it related to working conditions and was protected (Sabo and AWPPW, NLRB, April 2015).
Tips: Rules that safeguard “protected concerted activity” apply to both union and nonunion workplaces under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Care must be taken in disciplining employees who are complaining about issues in the workplace. Also check out the following Legal Guides: “Handling Workplace Protests and Complaints” and “Handling Insubordinate Employees” for more information on this topic