Workplace Courtesy Policies Targeted by the NLRB

by Marcus Castillo

In a recent decision, the National Labor Relations Board once again illustrated its willingness to regulate non-union workplaces. In Karl Knauz Motors, Inc. and Robert Becker the question presented was whether a “courtesy” policy violated the rights of collective action under Section 7 of the NLRA enjoyed by workers, whether union and non-union. The policy specifically stated:

“(b) Courtesy: Courtesy is the responsibility of every employee. Everyone is expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers, vendors and suppliers, as well as to their fellow employees. No one should be disrespectful or use profanity or any other language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership.”

The Board affirmed an administrative law judge’s opinion that the courtesy policy was unlawful because it could be construed broadly to chill collective action, for example, it’s reference to “disrespectful” conduct and “language which injures the image or reputation of the dealership”. The Board ordered the respondent to cease and desist from maintaining its “courtesy” rule and other related practices.

The vast majority of employers are unaware that the NLRB has jurisdiction over non-union workplaces to protect Section 7 rights. Had this employer retained counsel to review its policies it would have spent far less than it ultimately paid an attorney to defend this case.