In many situations, businesses and organizations understandably want to keep a lid on the details of their internal investigations until the facts surrounding a case have been officially confirmed. There’s not much upside for allegations to be spread around the workplace or into the public realm.
However, in a recent case, a judge from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) struck down a confidentiality policy that T-Mobile US Inc. had established, on the grounds that the policy, which had been created with the intent of keeping all investigations private, resulted in violating employees’ rights to discuss the conditions and terms of their employment. This ruling is a warning to companies that the NLRB will not compromise the rights of employees to protect an organization’s confidentiality.
The case arose out of a sexual harassment complaint a T-Mobile employee brought forth at a Maine call center. The company asked the employee to sign a confidentiality agreement after filing the complaint. The agreement included certain provisions requiring the employee keep all information about discussions with investigators and names of anyone involved in the investigation private. Additionally, the employee was prohibited from engaging in any conduct that could potentially impede or undermine the investigation.
The judge decided that even though the policy T-Mobile created did not directly prevent employees from talking about conditions and terms of employment, it still was in violation of the National Labor Relations Act because it could be reasonably interpreted as doing so. Therefore, employers need to make sure their confidentiality agreements abide by NLRB rules if they hope to avoid potential legal action in the future.
If you believe your business or organization could be harmed due to an unfair confidentiality agreement, contact a knowledgeable Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers today.