No-Gossip Policies May Need Review in Light of NLRB Ruling

Dana Wilkie

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Is it gossip to spread the news that Ted and Rachel are getting married before Ted and Rachel have announced so publicly?

Is it gossip to speculate whether Carol in accounting is expecting her second child?

A December 2013 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling addressing workplace no-gossip policies raises this question: When does gossip cross the line from innocuous, garden-variety conversation to something so potentially hurtful, harmful or liable that companies are within their rights to forbid it?

In the ruling, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Donna Dawson struck down what she called an “overly broad” no-gossip policy at Laurus Technical Institute in the Greater Atlanta area. The institute had fired Joslyn Henderson because she discussed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint she had filed alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by her manager.

The school had a restrictive no-gossip policy that banned talking about someone’s personal or professional life when the person or his or her manager wasn’t present. It also prohibited “making negative or disparaging comments or criticisms about anyone; creating, and sharing or repeating, a rumor about another person; and discussing work issues or terms and conditions of employment with other employees.”

The judge concluded that the policy violated the National Labor Relations Act.

Courtesy: SWGA SHRM