NLRB Decisions on Courtesy and Social Media

October 24, 2012

Many National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions these days are remarkable.  But the Sept. 28 NLRB decision in Knauz BMW is particularly remarkable.  An employer’s Employee Handbook containing the following language was deemed a violation of the employees’ rights:

Courtesy is the responsibility of every employee. Everyone is expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers, vendors and suppliers, as well as to their fellow employees. No one should be disrespectful or use profanity or any other language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership.

Thus, the NLRB has now ruled that requiring courtesy is unlawful. The theory is that requiring courtesy is a violation of employees’ rights under section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which protects “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”  According to the NLRB, “Employees would reasonably construe its broad prohibition against disrespectful conduct and language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership as encompassing Section 7 activity.”

Please click here to read the Knauz BMW Board Decision on Courtesy Requirements

Additionally, The NLRB has been targeting employers’ social media policies.  In its Sept. 7Costco Wholesale Corporation decision, the NLRB held that Costco’s social media policy was unlawful. The board found that the policy—which prohibited Costco employees from making statements on social media that could damage the company or other employees’ reputations—could violate employees’ free speech rights under section 7 of the NLRA. It also ruled that Costco could not maintain rules on employee information confidentiality that may be interpreted as prohibiting employees from discussing their wages and conditions of employment with other employees and third parties.

Click here to read the Costco Wholesale Social Media Decision.