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Employment Handbooks and Confidentiality

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Employers frequently ask if they can maintain rules  requiring employees to keep the contents of their employment handbooks confidential.

In a recent memorandum, the General Counsel (GC) (Division of Advice) of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concludes that such rules  are unlawful, as they interfere with the employees’ rights to discuss handbook policies regarding terms and conditions of employment with unions or other third parties.

The employees’ protected  right to discuss handbook rules and policies dealing with terms and conditions of employment  with third parties, outweighs the employer’s business justification  that the confidentiality restriction was necessary in order to prevent the policies in the handbook from falling into the hands of competitors.

In the memorandum the GC notes that to the extent that the handbook contains confidential or proprietary  information, the employer could tailor a rule to protect such information without interfering with the employees’ protected rights to discuss terms and conditions of employment with third parties