NLRB Memo Brings Questions to Codes of Conduct (Murphy Quoted)

Joe Murphy – The Wall Street Journal – January 9, 2018

A memo from the Trump-appointed general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board suggests the agency may take a new approach to issues related to employee handbooks and codes of conduct, including the question of what constitutes disrespectful workplace conduct. Joseph Murphy, author of the book “501 Ideas for Your Compliance and Ethics Program,” said the memo from NLRB General Counsel Peter B. Robb said some issues resulting in an enforcement action in the previous administration may now be looked at differently, including rules prohibiting disrespectful workplace conduct.

“In the memo he talks about issues that, if these come up, we might enforce them but we might take a different approach,” said Mr. Murphy in an interview. The memo tells agency field personnel: ‘Don’t go on the old course…you can’t charge ahead,’ said Mr. Murphy. “Come to me before you go to the board to ask for a complaint,” he said. The memo, Mr. Murphy said, rescinded Obama administration guidance on the agency’s approach to employee codes of conduct that concluded general language prohibiting disrespectful conduct could be seen as an unfair labor practice. The Obama-era memo says: “A rule that prohibits employees from engaging in ‘disrespectful,’ ‘negative,’ ’inappropriate,’ or ‘rude’ conduct towards the employer or management, absent sufficient clarification or context, will usually be found unlawful.”

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