Here’s a case that shows how potentially dangerous the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) agenda really is. Besides making it easier for unions to organize, it’s issuing rulings that contradict the guidance put forth by other federal agencies. 

The case in question involves Consolidated Telephone Co., the workforce for which is largely comprised of union employees.

When collective bargaining agreement covering 175 of Consolidated’s employees expired, and the union voted to strike.

During the strike, union employees picketed several of the company’s worksites. At one of the sites, striking switchman Eric Williamson struck a non-union, female employee’s car (the car sustained no damage). When the female employee looked at Williamson, he grabbed his crotch and called her a “scab.”

The employee reported the incident, and when the striking employees returned to work, Williamson was suspended for two days for “workplace violence” and “sexual harassment.”

NLRB: Suspension unwarranted

The NLRB investigated Williamson’s suspension. And while it found evidence to corroborate the female employee’s accusations, the board determined that Williamson’s suspension was unwarranted.

The board said that while his gesture was “totally uncalled for” and “very unpleasant,” it did not constitute sexual harassment, nor did it imply a threat of future violence or even future mistreatment.

In other words, Williamson’s actions were bad, but that’s OK because they were a one-time occurrence.

What would the EEOC think?

This case is interesting because it flies in the face of what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has directed employers to do in the face of similar misconduct.

One has to ask what the EEOC would say if the female employee in this case brought a complaint of sexual harassment and the company failed to act?

According to the EEOC, harassment:

is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Not the highlighted portion of that definition. Would the EEOC not consider Williamson’s actions to fall under that definition of harassment? After all, it’s not out of line to think that at the time of his actions his female co-worker probably felt somewhat intimidated or, at the very least, abused.

Here’s what employment law attorney and noted “Northern California Super Lawyer” Michael Kelly, writing at Employment Law Worldview, had to say about the NLRB’s ruling:

Needless to say, the NLRB’s sister agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would no doubt take a much different of view of employers who decline to sanction individuals who grab their crotches or make any other sexually demeaning gestures. To the extent the NLRB applies this kind of standard to on-line speech regarding employment controversies, we may see a further reduction in an employer’s ability to protect employees from boorish behavior in social media.

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