A policy of an automotive components company which prohibits the wearing of clothes which disparages the company has been held by an Administrative Law Judge to violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) since it “is reasonably construed to prohibit protected activity.”
An employee who was a vocal union supporter wore a shirt which said “slave” on the front and a picture of a ball and chain on the back, the origin of which harkened back to contract negotiations twenty years ago.
The company argued that its policy was designed to avoid liability for racial harassment, but the ALJ held that it was unlawfully broad: “It is, of course, important to read a rule in context, but in this case the fact that the rule prohibits racially and sexually discriminatory messages in no way changes the fact that it also prohibits derogatory messages about the company regardless of whether they are racially or sexually discriminatory.”
The ALJ stated that the NLRB “has repeatedly found employees to be protected by the [NLRA] even when, like [the employeen here], they displayed messages that likened their working conditions to those of a slave.”
See Alma Products Co., case number 07-CA-089537 (NLRB).