NLRB Finds Employer’s Policy Banning “Offensive” Conduct Unlawful 

In a May 5 decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision against Valley Health Systems regarding a policy in its employee handbook. The policy stated, “Conduct that interferes with System or Facility operations, brings discredit to the System or Facility, or is offensive to patients or fellow employees, will not be tolerated.”

The NLRB stated that the policy could reasonably be read by employees to prohibit discussions regarding terms and conditions of employment in the workplace. The policy did not provide any clarifying language that described for employees exactly what type of conduct would be seen as “offensive.” Since it could be interpreted as infringing on employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act to discuss terms and conditions of employment, the policy was an unfair labor practice, the NLRB determined.

Employers should be advised that the NLRB may view vague language in employee policies and guidelines prohibiting certain types of conduct as an unfair labor practice. This applies to union and non-union employers alike. MSEC recommends employers have their handbooks reviewed every other year to ensure they are up-to-date on ever-changing laws.