Restricting Employee Communication
Restricting employee communication could potentially lead to complaints of retaliation related to whistleblower claims. Employers must be careful about prohibiting employees from communicating.
Related Instances of Restricting Employee Communication
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a settlement in June, 2021 with Guggenheim Securities, LLC. The company had violated a whistleblower protection rule. A key factor was that the company’s compliance manual prohibited employees from initiating contact with the SEC. It required prior approval from the firm’s legal or compliance department. Subsequently, the SEC censured the company and they had to pay a civil fine.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) represented a nurse in an action against a hospital in Maine. The hospital had a policy of prohibiting employees from contacting or releasing information to the news media without the direct involvement of the hospital. The nurse contacted the media about safety complaints, violating the policy, and the hospital fired her. The NLRA represented her in a case brought against the hospital. Even though she did not belong to a union, an appellate court found in her favor, ruling that her action furthered a group concern.
OSHA enforces numerous whistleblower laws and even extends protection to non-employees. It states, “An anti-retaliation program that enables all members of the workforce, including permanent employees, contractors and temporary workers to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation can help employers learn of problems and appropriately addressed them before they become more difficult to detect.”
Employers are wise to encourage employees to communicate about problems with them first and then handle their complaints.