The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has decided that a policy encouraging employees of an Illinois BMW dealership to be courteous to one another violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA prohibits punishing employees for discussing working conditions and, according to the NLRB, the policy did not make clear enough that it did not cover such discussions.
An employee of Karl Knauz Motors who was fired for a Facebook post challenged the handbook rule, which stated that “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.”
The NLRB’s primary objection was to the last sentence prohibiting language that would injure the dealership’s reputation.
A reasonable employee who wishes to avoid discipline or discharge will surely pay careful attention and exercise caution when he is told what lines he may not safely cross at work . . . Reasonable employees would believe that even “courteous, polite, and friendly” expressions of disagreement with the Respondent’s employment practices or terms and conditions of employment risk being deemed “disrespectful” or damaging to the Respondent’s image or reputation.