As discussed in a previous blog, the NLRB created quite a stir by ruling that “at-will” statements might violate federal labor laws that protect employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity aimed to change their employment status. Several months later, the NLRB clarified its position. The clarification turns on a seemingly subtle distinction between waiving one’s rights and acknowledging one’s rights. Thus, according to the NLRB, a provision that required an employee to acknowledge that his or her at-will employment status could not be altered by any oral or written statements signed by anyone other than the president of the company violated the law since the provision appeared to waive the employee’s right to seek to change that status. However, a statement acknowledging that no one other than president of the company had the authority to agree to any employment status other than at-will did not violate an employee’s federal labor rights since the employee was simply acknowledging that any change to his or her status must be approved by the president.
This distinction suggests that employers may (and should) continue to include at-will statements in handbooks and other employment documents. However, rather than requiring acknowledgment that that status cannot be changed, at-will statements should simply clarify how that status can be changed.
Not acceptable: I acknowledge that no oral or written statements or representations regarding my employment can alter my at-will employment status, except a written statement signed by the Company’s president.
Seemingly Acceptable: I acknowledge that no one has the authority to make an agreement for employment other than at-will, other than the president of the Company.