I recently came across a blog post that answered the question of how to deal with workplace gossip. One solution you might want to avoid is a policy banning it outright, at least according to the recent opinion of a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge in Laurus Technical Institute [pdf].
Laurus distributed a no-gossip policy to its employees. Among other non-work-related prohibitions, the policy prohibited employees from “talking about a person’s professional life without his/her supervisor present.” It also bans any discussion of one’s personal life outside of one’s presence, any disparaging comments or criticism of another, or the creating, sharing, or repeating of rumors about another or of information that could damage another’s reputation or credibility.
The ALJ concluded that this policy was vague and overly-broad, and therefore illegal under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
It narrowly prohibits virtually all communications about anyone, including the company or its managers. In fact, read literally, this rule would preclude both negative and positive comments about a person’s personal or professional life unless that person and/or his/her supervisor are present. Such an overly broad, vague rule or policy on its face chills the exercise of Section 7 activity, and violates Section 8(a)(1).
Jon Hyman is a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or email@example.com. Follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.