Is It Time to Revise Your Employee Handbook?
Just when you were getting comfortable with the policies in your employee handbook, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is asking you to rethink that comfort level. On Aug. 2, 2023, the NLRB adopted a new legal standard for analyzing workplace rules in Stericycle, Inc.
The Old Standard
Under the previous standard adopted in Boeing Co. (which was refined by LA Specialty Produce Co.), the NLRB provided a framework to determine whether a facially neutral policy interfered with an employee’s ability to exercise their Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The previous analysis evaluated: (i) the nature and extent of the potential impact on rights under the NLRA; and (ii) the employer’s legitimate justifications associated with the rule.
A couple of years later, the NLRB clarified itself and asserted that rules must be viewed from the “standpoint of reasonable employees.” This prevented unions and employees from digging too deep into a rule to try and find any or every potential application that may violate the NLRA. This standard is now obsolete.
The New Standard
In Stericycle, the NLRB overturned the previous decision(s) and implemented a new standard it will follow when assessing whether a rule has a “reasonable tendency to chill [an] employee from exercising their Section 7 rights.” The NLRB clarified that workplace rules will be interpreted from the perspective of the employee (no longer a reasonable employee), especially in light of the fact that employees are “economically dependent” on their employers. Furthermore, the Board rejected the premise that certain rules were categorically lawful.
Per the NLRB guidance, there are no blanket accepted policies and each one will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Based on this new standard, companies should review their handbooks with the Stericycle lens of the NLRB.
If you have any questions regarding your employee handbook or workplace rules and policies, please reach out to your regular Armstrong Teasdale lawyer or one of the listed authors.