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Employment Blog

Access to Company Property During Off-Duty Time - No Restrictions

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on May 21, 2014
Filed under Employment

An employer would normally think that it could pass a work rule that says an employee does not have access to company property when the employee is off-duty and not working. This makes sense, because there is no reason for the employee to be on company property if they are not there to perform work. We now have to think twice, because the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently found that a company violated the rights of an employee when it implemented and enforced a policy preventing employees access to its property during off-duty time without prior supervisor authorization.

In the recent decision of American Baptist Homes of the West d/b/a Piedmont Gardens and Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers-West, the NLRB held the Nursing Home violated the rights of its employees when it disciplined two employees for meeting in the employee break room after their regular hours to visit with a union official. The rule restricted the access of off-duty employees without prior supervisor approval and a notice was posted stating the union was not permitted to hold meetings in the employee break room. The union challenged this rule claiming it violated the rights of the employees to organize and discuss working conditions. The NLRB found the rule was unlawful because it gave unlimited discretion to management to determine when and why employees would have access to company property. This is another example of the NLRB imposing restrictions on a company because of the exercise of union rights and the freedom of employees to engage in union-related activities.

The NLRB is imposing a very distinct agenda that opens the door to an unfettered freedom for employees to engage in union organizing activities. Companies must be careful in the implementation of policies to avoid a finding that they have interfered with the rights of their employees. While such a finding may not be harmful to the company, the exercise of this right (and the support of the NLRB) may be damaging to the relationship between a company and its employees.