In January 2013, we reported on the increasing focus of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the “Board”) on employer policies and rules in non-unionized workplaces. The NLRB has continued in full force, creating more and more tension between the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the “Act”) and employers’ legitimate interests in maintaining and enforcing workplace guidelines in a nondiscriminatory fashion.
This Employment Law Commentary focuses on the maintenance and enforcement of courtesy and civility rules. In these cases, the Board has taken extreme positions that increasingly ignore competing interests and obligations of employers. Among the obligations that can conflict with Section 7 in this context, employers must protect their employees from harassment, including on the basis of sex and race, by disciplining employees making harassing comments and engaging in harassing behavior and by maintaining civil workplaces that are not conducive to harassment. Employers also have a legitimate interest in maintaining a civil workplace simply to promote employee productivity and job satisfaction, as well as ensuring appropriate levels of customer service.
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