An employer acted illegally when it ordered a worker to remove from his cubicle a copy of a disciplinary warning that he had received, ruled the National Labor Relations Board. The employee had been written up for being insubordinate when he refused to put away his tablet during a meeting. He filed a grievance over the warning, complained to coworkers about it, and posted a laminated copy in his cubicle. An executive told him he’d better take it down or he would be suspended for three days. The Board ruled that employees have a right under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to share information about disciplinary warnings they receive, unless there’s a “legitimate and substantial business justification.” In this case, the Board said there was no legitimate reason to keep the warning confidential (Central States Southeast and Southwest Areas, Health & Welfare and Pension Funds, NLRB, August 2015).
Tips: Often when supervisors or managers get into a dispute with a worker over “insubordination,” there’s some underlying issue that can get the company into trouble without a proper understanding of laborlaws. A personality conflict may be at the root of the dispute, but it’s important for someone (typically HR) to have the ability to step back from the drama and make decisions about how to proceed in accordance with federal and state labor laws. If the employee’s actions are legally protected, then taking a heavy-handed approach can backfire. In this case, now the employee not only can keep his laminated warning up in his cubicle, but the employer must physically post and electronically distribute a Board-ordered statement that its actions were wrong and won’t recur. Read more about labor relations and how Vigilant’s employer counsel can help you properly apply workplace procedures.
This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.