Warning an Employee to Not “Stick Her Neck Out” – Unlawful?

Five union employees of the Santa Fe Tortilla Co. sent a letter complaining about working conditions to their plant manager. Upon receipt, the manager called the employees into his office and told one worker that she “should not stick her neck out for anyone because no one would stick their neck out for her.” The National Labor Relations Board found this message to contain an implied threat of retaliation for the employee’s involvement in sending the letter, an act protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

Important to the Board was the fact that the employer “wields the ax in the workplace,” and the plant manager’s comment came on the same day employees presented their written complaints. Further the NLRB concluded the message “reasonably conveyed a threat of unspecified reprisal” for activity that was protected by the National Labor Relation Act.”