The new standard heightens scrutiny of employer-enforced workplace rules about employee behavior. Any overly broad rules that chill employees’ exercise of their legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act would be considered unlawful, unless an employer can prove that the rules are necessary due to ‘legitimate and substantial business interests.’
Implications of NLRB Ruling on Employee Handbooks
The decision will affect how employers communicate their workplace policies regarding employee behavior. Because most employers document such policies in their employee handbooks, it’s likely that most employers will need to revise their handbooks.
In helping clients write their employee handbooks, MarathonHR has typically included standard language about displaying common courtesy and respect toward others. Workplace behaviors like gossip and spreading rumors, for example, are usually considered disruptive. However, the NLRB ruling indicates that such language would discourage employees from rightfully congregating. Employers, therefore, will likely need to scale back or remove any rules about discourtesy from their employee handbooks.
Focus on Job Performance, Not Behavior
Creating an effective employee handbook strengthens employers’ ability to manage employees and sets expectations with new hires. When crafting appropriate language, MarathonHR recommends that employers focus on job performance instead of workplace behavior. Employees who display behavioral problems often also have issues with their performance at work.
In a report released last year, the U.S. Surgeon General pointed out the connection between well-being and productivity and workplace performance. “When people feel anxious or depressed, the quality, pace, and performance of their work tends to decline,” he said. Employees engaging in destructive behaviors due to emotional impairments often aren’t performing well and are contributing to organizational problems that affect the morale and productivity of others.
MarathonHR stands ready to work with our clients to make necessary updates to their handbooks. Please contact us for advice on best practices and protocols for creating effective content that will keep you compliant with the latest regulations.