National Labor Relations Board Releases Guidance On At-Will Employment Policies

November 2012 (No. 31)

Employment, Benefits & Labor

The National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") recently released memoranda analyzing at-will employment clauses in two employee handbooks that the NLRB concluded do not violate the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"). Earlier this year, the NLRB determined that a broadly-worded at-will agreement would violate labor law if it precluded an employee from engaging in concerted activity to change his or her at-will status.

The new memoranda concern charges alleging that the at-will clauses of a California trucking company and a restaurant in Arizona were so broad that their employees reasonably would think that they could not engage in concerted activity to alter their at-will status. The NLRB explained, however, that one clause explicitly stated that the at-will employment relationship could be changed, so employees would not reasonably assume that their NLRA rights were prohibited. As to the other clause, the NLRB noted that it did not require employees to agree that the employment relationship could not be changed in any way, but merely highlighted that the employer's representatives are not authorized to change it. Thus, neither of the subject clauses reasonably would be interpreted to restrict an employee's rights to engage in concerted activity to change his or her at-will status.

The law involving employee handbook provisions that restrict the future modification of an employee's at-will status remains unsettled. If you have questions about your own at-will employment policies, please contact a member of Blank Rome LLP's Employment, Benefits and Labor Practice Group.

Notice: The purpose of this alert is to review the latest developments which are of interest to clients of Blank Rome LLP. The information contained herein is abridged from legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.

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