A National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") judge ruled against Quicken Loans ("Quicken" or "the Company"), saying that its employee handbook contained overbroad rules that could be reasonably interpreted to restrict Section 7 activity.
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") outlines protections afforded to workers in the private sector. The section entitles employees to concerted activity, that is, activities including "the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." Concerted activity can take the form of union organizing, or simply discussing wages at work.
Quicken violated the NLRA by including overbroad rules in its employee handbook. On this issue, the NLRB has set a clear precedent: where workplace policies and rules would be reasonably interpreted to constrain Section 7 activity, there is a violation. Quicken argued that its rules did not intend to coerce or restrict concerted activity and stressed that context and circumstances under which the rules were applied matters. The Company attested that its handbook more closely constituted guidelines, rather than rules, and should not be construed as to limit any kind of protected activity.
NLRB Judge David Goldman did not agree with the arguments of Quicken. In the decision, writing that "this limited-use argument fails in the face of the fact that the parties have stipulated that the BB was distributed to some employees, and that nothing amending, contradicting, excusing, or telling people that they could engage in conduct prohibited by the [manual]." The manual's contents were rules, and NLRB precedent held that every rule written should be construed as a binding obligation placed upon workers. As Judge Goldman eloquently stated, "Circumstances matter. Context matters. But the gravamen remains. The elephant in the middle of the room, so to speak, is not some idle comment by a supervisor or memo once distributed by a rogue midlevel supervisor. The issues emanate from an employee manual compiled, created, and distributed by the Respondents."
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Case No.: 07-ca-145794, Decision (Document [JD-28-16ER])