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NLRB reverses Trump-era workplace rules, but creates loophole for employers

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Adam Allington

On August 2, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took steps to strengthen worker protections under federal labor law by reversing a Trump-era NLRB’s approach to so-called “civility rules” – workplace rules that permit employers to discipline workers deemed hostile or otherwise “uncivil.”

Desirée LeClercq 

Proskauer Employment and Labor Law Assistant Professor

Desirée LeClercq is a professor of labor law at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and says the reversal is a step in the right direction, but still does not make it safe for workers to organize.

LeClercq says:

“Under Biden, the NLRB reimposed the traditional view that civility rules are coercive and violate federal labor law by interfering with employees’ fundamental right to ‘form, join, or assist labor organizations…’

“While this is a step in the right direction, the NLRB created a massive loophole for employers that could have a significant chilling effect on organizing.

“Specifically, based on the NLRB’s new legal standard, businesses can still use civility rules to fire workers so long as they claim, ‘legitimate and substantial business interests.’ That gives service industries, like Starbucks, free reign to rid their facilities of would-be union organizers, while simply claiming that workers were fired for harming the customers’ experiences, risking a loss of business to competition.”

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