St. Louis, Missouri
A customer service representative for a diaper supply company was fired after discussing her wages with another employee, based on a policy in the company handbook that the NLRB later found to be unlawful. After the NLRB issued a complaint, the case settled with the employee receiving backpay and an offer of reinstatement. The employer also changed its handbook to inform employees that they do have the right to discuss their wages with each other.
Gisele O., the customer service representative, frequently discussed work-related issues with her close friend, who also was her supervisor at Cotton Babies, an online cloth diaper supplier. Through one discussion, the supervisor learned she was earning less money than Gisele, and she quit. The company owner told Gisele that she broke the handbook rule that forbids employees from discussing their wages with each other, and that in order to keep her job, she would have to re-read the handbook and sign another form agreeing to follow its rules.
Gisele refused to sign, and two weeks later, she was fired. After an investigation, the regional director found reasonable cause to believe that Gisele was unlawfully fired because she had discussed her wages with another employee, which is protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. The regional director also found reasonable cause to believe that some parts of the handbook contained unlawful rules, and issued a complaint.
The employer then engaged in mediation and reached a private settlement with Gisele, who received full backpay for the time off work and an offer of reinstatement, which she declined. The employer also agreed to change its handbook, adding a section that tells employees they have a right to talk with each other about their raises, wages, salaries, and other conditions of employment.
Even though Gisele chose not to return to her former job, she is still pleased with the outcome of the case and her role in changing the company rules. “The greatest satisfaction I received from the whole experience,” she said, “was knowing that my case became a catalyst in changing the Cotton Babies Employee Manual, thus ensuring that other employees would no longer be subjected to such unrealistic and ridiculous rules.”