Requiring Confidentiality During HR Investigations May Violate National Labor Relations Act
In another foray by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) into new territory affecting non-union workplaces, a divided three-member Board panel found that an employer’s direction that employees not discuss matters under investigation with their co-workers violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) because it “had a reasonable tendency to coerce employees in the exercise of their rights” under the Act. Banner Health System, 358 NLRB No. 93 (July 30, 2012).
In concluding that the request for confidentiality “had a reasonable tendency to coerce employees,” the majority gave no weight to the fact that the request was not tied to a threat of discipline. Instead, without offering any explanation, the Board held that “[t]he law… does not require that a rule contain a direct or specific threat of discipline in order to be found unlawful.”