Employment LawScene Alert: NLRB Holds That Policy Prohibiting Recording Devices in the Workplace Violates Employees’ Section 7 Rights

In a recent decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) struck down an employer’s work rule that prohibited employees from recording workplace meetings and conversations without management approval, finding that such a policy could prevent employees from engaging in protected activity, which is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

In this case, the employee handbook had, like many employee handbooks, a policy prohibiting employees from recording company meetings and other aspects of the workplace. These policies are typically put in place to protect employees’ privacy and to protect employers’ confidential information and trade secrets. However, a 2–1 majority of the NLRB found that employees could reasonably understand such a rule to prohibit unionization efforts or engagement in other collective or concerted activities to advance their job-related interests. The NLRB held that photo, audio, and video recording at the workplace could be a protected activity under certain circumstances, such as documenting picketing activities, unsafe working conditions, discussions regarding terms and conditions of employment, or an employer inconsistently applying workplace rules. Because the rule in question was simply a blanket rule prohibiting recording, the NLRB ordered the company to remove the policy.

The NLRB is showing no signs of slowing down in its quest to expand the reach of Section 7 far beyond the traditional view of “protected, concerted activity.” Employers should carefully review and consider their workplace policies in light of this ruling and other NLRB decisions that have found other workplace rules infringing upon employees’ Section 7 rights. Employers’ rules restricting use of recording devices need to either be tied to particular employer interests, such as maintaining a customer’s privacy or an employer’s trade secrets, or be narrow enough to only prohibit recording in limited circumstances. Otherwise, employers, even non-union employers, could be subject to an NLRB unfair labor charge challenging their workplace recording policies.

Subscribe Today to Receive the Latest Employment Law Updates