NLRB [Again] Overturned Decision that Pro-Union Buttons Violated Work Rules

In Boch Honda the employer maintained a handbook policy that prohibited customer-facing employees from wearing, among other things “message” pins. NLRB ALJ determined that the employer’s interests in workplace safety and preventing damage to vehicles met the special circumstances standard and justified the ban.

As it’s prone to do, the NLRB reversed the ALJ and determined that the employer had failed to meet the special circumstances exception because the ban on pins was overbroad because it applied to employees, e.g. administrative and finance employees, who had no contact with vehicles.

Unfortunately, on appeal, the court agreed with the NLRB. The court was not persuaded that a “small and unobtrusive” union pin worn by a non-uniformed employees would interfere with the general professional image the car dealer was trying to create. The court also agreed with the NLRB that the ban was overbroad. Although acknowledging that a pin could fall into an engine or scratch a vehicle, the court found the ban was not narrowly trailer to prevent those kinds of events from happening.

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