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Cintas Corp. v. NLRB - 375 U.S. App. D.C. 371, 482 F.3d 463 (2007)

Rule:

An employer's rule that does not explicitly interfere with protected employee activity may nevertheless violate 29 U.S.C.S. § 158(a)(1). Evidence of actual employee conduct cannot vindicate an unlawful rule. And, an employer's failure (intentional or not) to enforce a facially unlawful rule does not redeem the rule.

Facts:

The Cintas Corporation's Employees' handbook stated that employees were to protect the confidentiality of any information and warned that employees could be sanctioned for violating a confidence or an unauthorized release of confidential information. The National Labor Relations Board (Board) described the rule as an unqualified prohibition of the release of any information regarding its employees which could be reasonably construed by employees to restrict discussion of wages and other terms and conditions of employment. The employer, Cintas, petitioned for appellate review of Respondent Board’s conclusion that its confidentiality rule violated the National Labor Relations Act, 20 U.S.C.S. § 158(a)(1). 

Issue:

Does the employer indirectly interfere with protected activities as prohibited under the National Labor Relations Act?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Board's decision was affirmed. The court ruled that a more narrowly tailored rule that does not interfere with protected employee activity would be sufficient to accomplish the company's presumed interest in protecting confidential information. Cintas made no effort in its rule to distinguish protected behavior from policy violations, and thus, the Board's determination was "reasonably defensible."

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