The National Labor Relations Board has denied a motion for summary judgment by the NLRB’s General Counsel in a case involving Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc.’s maintenance of an employee handbook rule prohibiting the use of cameras and video recording devices without prior approval.
The 2-1 decision allows MBUSI to attempt to prove that: (1) the rule “furthers legitimate business interests, including the protection of proprietary and confidential information, the maintenance of safety and production standards, and open communication” by employees; (2) the rule is not per se unlawful under Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act because employees at the plant “did not understand the camera rule to restrict Section 7 activity” under the NLRA; and (3) “its business interests outweigh any Section 7 rights” that may be implicated by its maintenance of the rule.
The Board majority — Chairman Philip A. Miscimarra and Member Lauren McFerran — made it clear that it was expressing “no view” on the merits of the case. Thus, whether the company’s evidence at trial will be sufficient to win the day remains to be seen. Nevertheless, citing previous Board decisions reaching the same conclusion, the majority in the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. case rejected a lengthy dissent by Member Mark Gaston Pearce that would have found the no-recording rule unlawful on its face.
Employers with similar handbook rules that may be considered unlawful by the NLRB’s General Counsel, which has been waging war against common workplace rules of all types, may take comfort in the majority’s decision. Employers should review their handbooks and policy manuals carefully to make sure the rules within them do not “reasonably tend to chill employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights” under the NLRA.