Appeals Court: Employers can Require Workers to ‘Maintain a Positive Work Environment.”

A federal appeals court recently rejected a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that potentially limited the scope of employer anti-harassment policies.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Atlanta overruled the NLRB by upholding the following workplace conduct provisions in a T-Mobile employee handbook:

  •  Employees should “maintain a positive work environment”; and
  • It is”unacceptable” for employees to engage “arguing or fighting” with co-workers, “failing to treat others with respect,” and “failing to demonstrate teamwork.”

However, the 5th Circuit let stand the NLRB’s ruling that a provision in the employee handbook prohibiting all photography and audio or video recording in the workplace violated the National Labor Relations Act. The panel said  a reasonable employee “would interpret it to discourage protected activity, such as even an off-duty employee photographing a wage schedule posted on a corporate bulletin board.”

T-Mobile had argued the recording ban was intended to prevent harassment and maintain individual privacy.

The 5th Circuit decision, written by Judge E. Grady Jolly, held that a reasonable employee would not construe the requirement to maintain a positive work environment as a restriction on their right to unionize or engage in collective activity to improve their working conditions. [Read more…]