Board Approves Greater Confidentiality in Workplace Investigations
Washington DC – In a decision issued today, the National Labor Relations Board held that work rules requiring confidentiality during the course of workplace investigations are presumptively lawful. The case, Apogee Retail LLC d/b/a Unique Thrift Store, 368 NLRB No. 144 (2019), overturns a 2015 decision— Banner Estrella Medical Center, 362 NLRB 1108 (2015), enf. denied on other grounds 851 F.3d 35 (D.C. Cir. 2017)—that had required employers to prove, on a case-by-case basis, that the integrity of an investigation would be compromised without confidentiality.
The Board concluded that the framework set forth in Banner Estrella improperly placed the burden on the employer to determine whether its interests in preserving the integrity of an investigation outweighed employee Section 7 rights, contrary to both Supreme Court and Board precedent. The Board also noted that the new standard better aligned with other federal guidance, including EEOC enforcement guidance.
In today’s decision, the Board applied the test for facially neutral workplace rules established in The Boeing Company, 365 NLRB No. 154 (2017), and determined that investigative confidentiality rules limited to the duration of the investigation are generally lawful. Because the rules at issue in this case did not limit confidentiality to the duration of the investigation, the majority remanded this case for further consideration.
Chairman John F. Ring was joined by Members Marvin E. Kaplan and William J. Emanuel in the majority opinion. Member Lauren McFerran dissented.
The decision can be found here.
Established in 1935, the National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that protects employees, employers, and unions from unfair labor practices and protects the right of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. The NLRB conducts hundreds of workplace elections and investigates thousands of unfair labor practice charges each year.