It’s no secret that the NLRB is waging a war against facially neutral employment policies. You can add “no loitering” rules to its list of victims.
In EYM King of Michigan, an NLRB administrative law judge considered the following policy, implemented by a Burger King franchise:
Loitering and soliciting either inside or outside on Company premises is strictly prohibited. You should arrive some minutes before your entry hour and leave the as soon as you finish your shift. Employees are not authorized to remain in the restaurant after work. If you are not working or eating in a store, your conduct may be construed as loitering. If you are off-duty and return to the store to speak with employees who are working, your conduct may be considered loitering. Former employees who return to the store to speak with employees who are working are loitering. This policy is designed to prevent the disruption of company business due to unnecessary interaction with non-working employees or non-employees. Employees who violate this policy may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.
The ALJ concluded that this policy unlawfully restricted employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity because it impeded employees’ ability to gather, and, by implication, discuss wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The judge also was not persuaded by the employer’s professed “safety” concerns for its employees:
Respondent’s justification for its rules is that its restaurants are located in high-crime areas. To give credence to such an explanation would effectively deprive millions of the lowest-paid workers in the United States of the ability to assert their Section 7 rights….
Respondent’s professed concerns regarding safety in justifying its loitering and solicitation rules are manifestly specious. The company has made no showing as to how this rule enhances safety. In this regard, it does not prohibit customers from eating food purchased at its restaurants while sitting in their cars in the restaurant parking lot. Moreover, people are just as likely to be the victims of violent crime at Respondent’s drive thru windows as anywhere else on the exterior of the restaurant.
No employment policy that could potentially impact employees’ ability to discuss work is safe from the NLRB’s scrutiny. If you have not had a labor and employment lawyer review your handbook and other policies, you are doing your business a severe disservice, and taking a huge risk, in this hyperactive regulatory environment.