An administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board ruled recently that an employer policy prohibiting the wearing of baseball caps other than the employer’s caps violated workers’ Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
This might sound like bald overreaching, but the policy had the effect of precluding employees from displaying union logos or other protected messages on their hats. Under the Act, employees generally are allowed to display union insignia in the workplace, unless the employer can establish a special rule or reason to prohibit them.
In this case, Quad Graphics, Inc., decided July 31, 2013, the employer proffered a hat trick of three reasons for the rule, all of which the judge rejected:
Safety reasons, to keep hair out of machinery — but, alas, the judge found no evidence that union hats were less safe than employer hats;
- Fear of gang activity, i.e., that other hats might encourage it — despite the lack of evidence of gang activity (but it sounded good!); and
- Better employee-customer interactions — which might have prevailed, but for the lack of any evidence that the workers interacted with customers.
Michael Homans is a Labor & Employment attorney and founding partner of HomansPeck LLC. For more employment law updates, including news and links to important information pertaining to legal developments that may affect your business, subscribe to Michael’s blog, or follow him on Twitter @EmployLawUpdate.