The National Labor Relations Board has been particularly active in scrutinizing company handbooks, and Macy’s handbook is no exception.
The Board reviewed several of Macy’s policies, including a policy restricting employees’ use of information regarding their fellow employees and Macy’s customers. This policy limited confidential disclosure of “any information, which if known outside the Company, could harm the Company or its business partners, customers or employees or allow someone to benefit from having this information before it is publicly known.” The ALJ ruled that the restriction interfered with employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act because it would lead employees to believe that they could not discuss wages, hours, or working conditions among themselves or talk to a union about these subjects.
Macy’s also had a policy that restricted employees from using its “logo or other intellectual property.” The ALJ found this policy unlawful because employees could interpret this prohibition as preventing them from using Macy’s logo to further protected activity, such as on a picket sign.
Finally, the ALJ concluded that Macy’s cannot require employees to notify the company and seek approval before providing information to government officials or in government investigations. The Board will strike a policy if employees believe it limited their right to file unfair labor practice charges. Although this policy did not prohibit employees from filing unfair labor practice charges with the Board, employees could interpret it in that way. The ALJ was unpersuaded by a “generic” savings clause that told employees its policies did not limit employees from exercising their rights under federal labor law, “including discussion of wages, hours, or other terms and conditions of employment.” ALJs are never persuaded by these types of savings clauses and employers should not rely on them.
Macy’s joins a long list of employers whose policies have been struck down by the Board as it continues to crusade against well-meaning employee handbooks.
Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.