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Employment Blog

Collegiality in the Workplace – Not Authorized by NLRB

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on July 13, 2016
Filed under Employment

Collegiality in the workplace is the goal of every employer in order to provide the proper atmosphere for productive employees.  Many employers have taken this desire to heart by publishing rules that encourage collegiality amongst employees and prohibit conduct that would adversely affect morale in the workplace.  A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in a hospital setting again throws cold water on an attempt to ensure a high level of collegiality and promote productivity in the workplace. 

In the April decision of William Beaumont Hospital (363 NLRB No. 162), the NLRB struck down a number of provisions in the code of conduct used by the hospital to encourage collegiality and cooperation amongst employees in the workplace.  The NLRB found that various provisions of the code of conduct of the hospital were a violation of the Section 7 rights of its employees because the work rules tended to “chill” the employees’ exercise of their right to engage in protected, concerted activity.

The NLRB found that various provisions of the code of conduct were unlawful under Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act.  The code of conduct prohibited such things as:

  • conduct that “impedes harmonious interactions and relationships”;
  • verbal comments or physical gestures directed to others that exceeded the bounds of fair criticism;
  • negative or disparaging comments about the moral character or professional capabilities of an employee or physician made to employees, physicians, patients, or visitors;
  • behavior that is disruptive of maintaining a safe and healing environment or that is counter to promoting teamwork.

The NLRB also found that policies which prohibited the following conduct were also in violation of the NLRA:

  • rule prohibiting employees from conduct that brings discredit on the System or Facility or is offensive to fellow employees;
  • conduct speaking negatively about a coworker or the hospital;
  • conduct disclosing business-related and employee information.

The NLRB felt that employees would reasonably construe these particular rules of conduct to inhibit employees from expressing their opinion or engaging on concerted activity because the conduct that was addressed was so ambiguous and overly broad such that employees did not know what was acceptable behavior and what was inappropriate behavior.  As a result, the NLRB struck down these various rules of conduct as being unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act.  Employers must be careful in drafting workplace policies to provide enough clarity so a rule is not stricken if challenged before the National Labor Relations Board.