Labor, Law

If, as Doonesbury suggests, the terrorists really are after us because they hate freedom, there may be no need to fear any longer. The NLRB has ruled that it is perfectly legal for an employer to ban workers from socializing on their free time! When I first read this on JJs blog I thought it must be a mistake of some kind, but Nathan Newman confirms that its the case. In fact, so does the Washington Post:

They’ll be bowling alone at Guardsmark tonight. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) doesn’t want the employees chatting it up off the job.

On June 7 … They upheld the legality of a regulation for uniformed employees at Guardsmark, a security guard company, that reads, [Y]ou must NOT . . . fraternize on duty or off duty, date or become overly friendly with the client’s employees or with co-employees.”

The board majority held that the guards probably would interpret this to be a no-dating rule, pure and simple. In her dissent, member Wilma Liebman wrote that the rule plainly specifies both dating and fraternizing, a term that covers a range of activities that go well beyond (or fall well short of) dating. That certainly was the reason that a San Francisco security guard local of the Service Employees International Union brought the case to the NLRB in the first place: The rule as written could preclude any attempt by the guards to meet to form a union, or even to talk about work-related issues.

… it is now a precedent that can be applied to a far wider range of workers in a far wider range of situations. Indeed, as the precedent for this ruling, the board cited an earlier decision upholding the right of a hotel to ban its employees from fraternizing with guests. That hardly seems a parallel set of circumstances — closer to perpendicular, if you ask me — and it sure doesn’t inspire any confidence that the current board will seek to limit the impact of its Guardsmark ruling.