Those of you who attended our annual labor & employment seminar on May 1 or read our blog with any regularity or just pay attention to developments in employment law, know that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and its administrative law judges have been finding employers guilty of unfair labor practices in new and creative ways.
Recently, an NLRB administrative law judge said that it was fine for technicians, who conduct service calls at customers’ homes, to wear buttons and display bumper stickers that read: “WTF, Where’s The Fairness,” “FTW Fight To Win,” and “CUT the CRAP! Not My Healthcare.” The employer sent home more than 1,500 employees and asked other employees to remove the buttons.
The employer argued that the buttons were obscene and offensive to customers because WTF is short for “What the F**k” and FTW is short for “F**k the World” in texting lingo. The administrative law judge rejected this argument and found that the buttons and stickers were not profane or vulgar and would not impugn the employer’s reputation with its customers. The judge recommended to the NLRB that the employer be found to have committed unfair labor practice violations by sending the employees home and having them remove the buttons and stickers. The judge’s decision will be reviewed by the NLRB.
FYI – Not long ago, the NLRB struck down a company policy requiring employees to represent the employer in the community in a positive and professional manner. The reason: The NLRB ruled that this policy could scare employees from exercising their right to complain about their wages and terms and conditions of employment with outside representatives. Really? Employees can’t be required to act in a civilized manner even when they complain about their wages, and their work conditions? Is civility dead? The NLRB seems to be answering this question in the positive.