Blanchard & Walker Law PLLC: Ruling Provides Warning for Mandatory Handbook Restrictions

Administrative ruling sends a warning shot for overreaching and oppressive employment contracts.

Blanchard & Walker clients win in case tried under the National Labor Relations Act. Trial verdict provides a warning for employers seeking to impose workplace communication restrictions.

The Motor City Pawn Brokers ruling confirms that oppressive handbook requirements banning everything from communications with former employees to social media postings violate the National Labor Relations Act, and firing people for refusing to sign off on the unlawful handbook, is a violation of the NLRA.

“The Board has consistently held that work rules, including those in mandatory employment agreements, violate Section 8(a)(1) when they prevent or interfere with employees’ rights to file charges, to participate in Board proceedings, or to access the Board’s processes,” the ALJ ruled.

The Judge’s ruling found Motor City Pawn Brokers’ prohibitions of “inappropriate” language and conduct in the Employment Handbook and the Updated Handbook, including the workplace bullying provision and the prohibition against “badmouthing and spreading rumors,” violate Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA and, taken together with a broad arbitration agreement that would cover NLRA claims, render the agreement unlawful.

As an illegal contract, claimants’ job termination for refusing to sign off on the Handbook amounted to unlawful conduct on the part of the employer. Attorney Angela Walker represents three former Motor City employees who were fired in retaliation for refusing to sign off on the handbook. Motor City is almost sure to take “exceptions” to the recommendations of the ALJ which will then go up to the full National Labor Relations Board.