NLRB Finds T-Mobile Unlawfully Required Employees to "Maintain a Positive Work Environment"

May 09, 2016

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has held that several employee handbook provisions maintained by T-Mobile were unlawful, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The NLRB held that T-Mobile's policy requiring employees "to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships" was a vague, ambiguous directive that would reasonably chill employees in the exercise of their NLRA rights.

The NLRB also invalidated T-Mobile's policy prohibiting employees from recording "people or confidential information using cameras, camera phones/devices, or recording devices (audio or video) in the workplace" and prohibiting employees from making "sound recordings of work-related or workplace discussions." The NLRB found the recording rule unlawful because it did not distinguish between recordings that were protected by the NLRA and those that are not; nor did it exclude recordings made on non-work time, in non-work areas.

The NLRB also invalidated the following rules in T-Mobile's employee handbook: (1) barring disclosure of the employee handbook itself to third parties without consent; (2) requiring employees to maintain the confidentiality of the names of employees involved in internal investigations as complainants, subjects, or witnesses; (3) directing employees who feel they have not been paid all wages or pay owed to them, believe that an improper deduction was made from their salary, or feel they have been required to miss meal or rest periods to contact a manager, an HR business partner, or the company's "integrity line"; (4) requiring employees to refer all media inquiries to the company without comment; (5) prohibiting employees from using the company's information or communications resources in ways that could be considered disruptive, offensive, or harmful to morale;(6) requiring employees to sign a restrictive covenant and confidentiality agreement that classifies employee wage and salary information as confidential and proprietary information not subject to disclosure; (7) prohibiting employees from disclosing employee addresses, telephone numbers, and contact information and also prohibiting employees from accessing such information without a business need to do so and without prior authorization or consent; (8) prohibiting employees from making detrimental comments about the company or its customers, products, services, or employees; and (9) requiring employees to sign an acknowledgement form that they will report coworkers who do not comply with work rules.