Employers seeking to maintain a respectful, positive, and productive  work environment received welcome support from a recent National  Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision on work rules. Despite a  growing number of NLRB decisions striking down common workplace  rules, a majority of the NLRB found that an employer could proscribe  the following conduct:

Insubordination to a manager or lack of respect and  cooperation with fellow employees or guests. This includes  displaying a negative attitude that is disruptive to other staff or  has a negative impact on guests.

Copper River of Boiling Springs, LLC, 360 NLRB No. 60 (2014).

In upholding the rule, the NLRB reasoned that employees would not  reasonably understand the rule to prohibit protected activity under the  National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), such as discussing wages,  hours, and other terms or conditions of employment with co-workers.  The NLRB noted that the rule was limited to conduct that was  disruptive to staff or that had a negative impact on customers, which  sufficiently narrowed the scope of the rule to unprotected conduct that  would interfere with the company’s legitimate business concerns.

The NLRB, however, was not unanimous on the issue. The chairman  of the NLRB dissented, claiming that an employee would reasonably  interpret the rule as preventing employees from discussing  controversial topics, including their terms and conditions of  employment.

While the NLRB’s decision is a positive development, employers may  want to exercise caution in maintaining similar work rules and  policies, due to the NLRB’s increased scrutiny and invalidation of  other common handbook provisions. Employers may wish to review  their existing rules to ensure they are narrowly focused on legitimate  business concerns and cannot be interpreted to interfere with the  NLRA.