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DTCI: Beware of overly broad media policies

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gesslingBy Joshua B. Gessling

The National Labor Relations Board continues to be very active in evaluating employee handbook provisions that may affect the rights of union and nonunion employees to engage in protected, concerted activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

A three-member panel recently issued its decision in DirecTV U.S. DirecTV Holdings LLC and struck down several of the company’s employee handbook provisions. The NLRB declared the employer’s media policy, which prohibited employees from contacting the media, to be overly broad and unlawful because it could be reasonably construed by employees to limit the Section 7 right to discuss labor disputes with media. Consistent with several other recent decisions, the NLRB found that the employer’s policy made no attempt to distinguish between protected and unprotected activity. Furthermore, the employer’s policy required that employees obtain authorization from the employer before making comments regarding the employer to media. The board found this requirement to be unlawful, holding that the employer may not require an employee to obtain permission to engage in protected, concerted off-duty activity.

The NLRB also struck down the employer’s handbook provision on the employer’s confidentiality rules, which prohibited employees from discussing details about the job, company business or projects with anyone outside the company. The board found this provision to be unlawful because employees could reasonably understand the rule to prohibit employees from discussing wages and other terms and conditions of employment. The board also believed the employer’s rule could be reasonably understood to prevent employees from communicating with union representatives, NLRB agents or other governmental agencies regarding workplace issues, which provided an additional basis for its determination.

Employers should evaluate internal policies and employee handbooks to ensure that all company rules are consistent with legal developments. For additional information on how DirecTV U.S. DirecTV Holdings LLC affects your media, confidentiality and other employee handbook provisions, contact this author or a member of the Labor and Employment Group at Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn LLP.•

Mr. Gessling is an associate in the Evansville office of Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn LLP. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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