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NLRB Finds Verbal Warning Violates NLRA

According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Dover Energy, Inc., Blackmer Division, 361 NLRB No. 48, a verbal warning issued to an employee for “continued frivolous requests for information” violated the National Labor Relations Act.  The employee was not a union negotiator, his requests were not authorized by the union, and there was no indication that he acted on anyone else’s behalf.  The employee was a shop steward whose role was simply to investigate grievances.  Despite his limited role, this shop steward made two voluminous information requests of the employer related only to negotiation issues involving financial and payroll information.  The company did not provide the information.  After the second request, the company gave the steward a verbal warning explaining it was not bargaining with him individually.  The company warning included a statement that “similar requests such as this will result in further discipline up to and including discharge.”  The employee filed a charge with the NLRB.  The Administrative Law Judge did not find a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.  However, the majority of the Board reversed the Judge finding that the verbal warning “would reasonably be understood to proscribe future protected activity.”  This is yet another example of the NLRB extending its reach on the concept of “protected activity.”  For further information, please contact members of our Labor & Employment Section.

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