AT&T has violated labor law, but can still prohibit employees from recording conversations, NLRB rules

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An AT&T policy that prohibits employees from recording conversations with managers or colleagues is legal, according to one National Labor Relations Board ruling Monday. The board found that while AT&T had violated US labor law by enforcing the policy, the withdrawal ban itself was not illegal.

Under AT&T rules, “employees must not record telephone or other conversations they have with their colleagues, managers, or third parties unless such recordings have been pre-approved by the Legal Department.”

In its decision, NLRB overturned part of a previous ruling stating that the policy’s potential to infringe on employee rights outweighs AT & T’s need to keep customer data private.

The case centers on a complaint filed in 2016 by AT&T employee Marcus Davis. Davis served as union steward for the Communications Workers of America Local 2336. In May 2016, he attended a meeting with an employee who was fired and recorded the conversation. Davis’s manager found out, asked to meet him, and deleted the recording from his phone. He later told Davis not to encourage other employees to make in-store recordings as this was against AT&T rules, noting that he “did not want anyone to be held responsible for not following it. policy “.

The NLRB discovered that Davis was involved in protected union activities. The board said AT&T had violated federal labor law by telling it not to encourage its colleagues to make withdrawals and suggesting that this could affect those who did.

Yet the board also said that simply because it was policy applied illegal does not mean it is inherently illegal. A comprehensive ban on the continued enforcement of such rules simply because of a single instance of illegal application – even if that one instance is carried out by a misguided low- or mid-level supervisor whose action is inconsistent with company policy – fails give proper weight to those legitimate interests, “the board wrote.” Indeed, it does not give them any weight at all. “

In her dissenting opinion, NLRB chairman Lauren McFerran said the rule was illegal too broad. “We all agree that some employee admissions are protected by the National Labor Relations Act,” she wrote. By its wording, the rule does not differentiate between admissions protected by the National Labor Relations Act and admissions that are not … Indeed, as written, the rule applies even to conversations at leisure and in non-work areas: a employee could not record a union meeting held in a canteen over lunch. “

AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The edge.