Executive Summary: On May 1, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued an order finding that Piedmont Gardens, a retirement community, violated § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when it implemented and enforced a policy restricting off-duty employee access to its property without prior supervisor authorization.
The issue arose after a union representative attempted to meet with two off-duty employees in the employee break room. The two employees subsequently were sent home for attending the meeting in violation of the employer's off-duty access rule.
The collective bargaining agreement in place between Piedmont and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) allowed a field representative to visit the property at reasonable times provided the representative met with employees during their free time and in non-work areas. An agreement also permitted the field representative access to the employee break room. Despite this agreement, Piedmont implemented a rule restricting access to off-duty employees without prior supervisor approval and posted a notice stating that "the union is not permitted to hold meetings in the employee break room." The SEIU challenged the rule as violating § 8(a)(1) of the NLRA.
The Board found the rule to be unlawful because it gave Piedmont management unlimited discretion to decide when and why employees may access the property. The Board ordered Piedmont to withdraw the policy requiring supervisor approval for off-duty access to the property; to stop informing employees that the union could not use the break room for meetings; to refrain from interfering with its employees' exercise of rights under § 7 of the NLRA and; finally, to post a notice informing employees of the violation and explaining the steps taken to rectify the violation.
What does this mean for my business?
If your business needs require a policy restricting off-duty access to your property, ensure that it applies to all employees, regardless of the purpose of their visit. Based on this decision, a rule restricting such access will be held valid only if it: (1) limits access solely with respect to the interior of the facility and other working areas; (2) is clearly disseminated to all employees; and (3) applies to off-duty employees seeking access to the facility for any purpose. See American Baptist Homes of the West d/b/a Piedmont Gardens and Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers-West, 32 CA-078124 and 32-CA-080340, 360 NLRB No. 100 (May 1, 2014), citing Tri-County Medical Center, 222 NLRB 1089, 1089 (1976).