NLRB ISSUES ADVICE MEMORANDUM REGARDING EMPLOYER SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES

By: Jonathan T. Swain & Christopher J. Saugstad

September 27, 2019

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently made public an Advice Memorandum (the “Memorandum”) by its General Counsel on August 15, 2019. The Advice Memorandum detailed the General Counsel’s advice regarding specific social media policies of CVS Health. The Memorandum examined numerous social media policies of CVS Health and found most to be lawful except two specific policies related to the disclosure of personal information.

The Memorandum utilized the new balancing test established in Boeing Co., 365 NLRB No. 154, which evaluates “(i) the nature and extent of the potential impact of Section 7 rights, and (ii) legitimate business justifications associated with the requirements(s).” Additionally, the Memorandum explained how the new balancing test creates three categories in which to classify various types of employer rules. The three categories are broken down into:

  • Category 1: lawful rules that either don’t interfere with NLRA-protected rights or for which the possibly adverse impact on protected rights is outweighed by the employer’s legitimate business justifications;
  • Category 2: rules which warrant individualized scrutiny on a case-by-case basis as to whether they would interfere with NLRA rights, and if so, whether the adverse impact on the protected conduct is outweighed by the legitimate business justifications; and
  • Category 3: unlawful rules which prohibit or limit NLRA-protected conduct and for which the adverse impact on workers’ rights is not outweighed by the employer’s legitimate business justification.

Here, the General Counsel found two CVS Health policies that ran afoul of Section 7 rights under the new balancing test. First, CVS Health adopted a policy in which employees were required to identify themselves by name if they mentioned CVS Health or discussed their work on social media. The Memorandum classified this rule under Category 2, found it unlawful, and explained “[t]he Board has recognized that requiring employees to self-identify in order to participate in collective action would impose a significant burden on Section 7 rights.” The Memorandum explained CVS Health had other policies in place to ensure employee’s social media posts were not being made upon CVS Health’s behalf.

The General Counsel deemed another policy unlawful in relation to personal information. CVS Health’s Handbook and Social Media Policy contained a restriction that prohibited employees from disclosing “employee information” on social media. This policy was also classified by the NLRB as a Category 2 policy and was found by the NLRB as restricting employees’ ability to engage in Section 7 activities. “While the employer has a legitimate business interest in keeping customers’ and employees’ personal and medical information confidential, it has no legitimate interest in preventing employees from sharing contact information or discussing wages, working conditions or employment disputes.”

The Memorandum advised bringing a complaint against CVS regarding the two policies found to be unlawful under the newly established standing in Boeing Co. Due to the decision in Boeing Co., along with the recently published Advice Memorandum, employers will want to review their current handbook and social media policies. Policies requiring employee identification by real name when discussing their employer or their work, or policies prohibiting employees from disclosing “employee information” on social media may be deemed unlawful.

Lindner & Marsack, S.C. represents employers in all areas of labor and employment law. If you have any questions about effective workplace handbook and social media policies, or any other labor or employment issue involving your business, please contact us at any time.

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