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The National Labor Relations Act does not prevent an employer from making and enforcing reasonable rules covering the conduct of employees on company time. Working time is for work. It is therefore within the province of an employer to promulgate and enforce a rule prohibiting union solicitation during working hours. Such a rule must be presumed to be valid in the absence of evidence that it was adopted for a discriminatory purpose. It is no less true that time outside working hours, whether before or after work, or during luncheon or rest periods, is an employee's time to use as he wishes without unreasonable restraint, although the employee is on company property. It is therefore not within the province of an employer to promulgate and enforce a rule prohibiting union solicitation by an employee outside of working hours, although on company property. Such a rule must be presumed to be an unreasonable impediment to self-organization and therefore discriminatory in the absence of evidence that special circumstances make the rule necessary in order to maintain production or discipline.
Two separate cases were consolidated for review. In the first case, petitioner Republic Aviation Corp. ("Republic") adopted a rule prohibiting solicitation of any type in its factory or offices. An employee solicited union membership in the plant during lunch periods. A union was seeking to organize the plant. The employee discharged, and three other employees were discharged for wearing union steward buttons in the plant after being asked to remove the insignia. Respondent National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") determined that the promulgation and enforcement of the no solicitation rule violated § 8(1) of the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") and discriminated against the discharged employee under § 8(3) of the NLRA. It determined also that the discharge of the stewards violated § 8(1) and § 8(3). The NLRB entered a cease and desist order and directed the reinstatement of the discharged employees with back pay and also the rescission of the rule against solicitation in so far as it prohibited union activity and solicitation on Republic's property during the employees' own time. The court of appeals affirmed. Republic was granted a writ of certiorari.
In the second case, respondent Le Tourneau Company of Georgia ("Le Tourneau") suspended two employees for distributing union literature or circulars, on the employees' own time, but on a parking lot that was owned and policed by Le Tourneau. Le Tourneau had a long-standing and strictly enforced rule that barred distribution or posting of any handbills or posters without Le Tourneau's permission. The NLRB found that the application of the rule to the distribution of union literature by the employees on company property which resulted in the lay-offs was an unfair labor practice under § 8 (1) and 8 (3). Again, the NLRB issued cease and desist and rule rescission orders, with directions to pay the employees for their lost time. An appellate court reversed the NLRB's decision. The NLRB was granted a writ of certiorari.
Did the respective rules regarding union activity adopted by Republic and Le Tourneau violate the NLRA?
The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the appellate court's decision enforcing the NLRB's orders in the Republic case, and the Court reversed the appellate court's setting aside the NLRB's orders in the Le Tourneau case. The court ruled that the NLRB was warranted in both cases in finding unfair labor practices, violative of § 8 of the NLRA. The Court observed that if a rule against solicitation was invalid as to union solicitation on the employer's premises during the employee's own time, a discharge because of violation of that rule discriminated within the meaning of § 8(3) in that it discouraged membership in a labor organization.