You read that right. Soon you will recall the good ol’ days when employee handbooks could prohibit employees from having a “discourteous or inappropriate attitude or behavior.”
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in April ruled that such language was too broad and could possibly deter employees from discussing their pay or working conditions with colleagues.
The case: Employee handbooks distributed by First Transit Inc. included a section that prohibited “loafing, wasting time, loitering or excessive visiting.” It also banned, “discourteous or inappropriate attitude or behavior.”
Employees argued that the rules violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gives employees the right to engage in “concerted activity” for their mutual aid, even in nonunion workplaces.
The NLRB ruled that the company’s first section about loafing and loitering was a perfectly legal restriction. But the board said a ban on “inappropriate attitudes or behavior” is too broad to pass muster under the NLRA. (First Transit, Inc., 360 N.L.R.B. No. 72)
The lesson: If your handbook has language similar to this ban on “discourteous and inappropriate attitudes,” rewrite it to be more specific. Give examples of conduct the policies are either seeking to prohibit or encourage. This will make clear to staff you aren’t trying to interfere with their right to gather or unionize.