On Tuesday, December 17, 2019, in Apogee Retail LLC d/b/a Unique Thrift Store, 368 NLRB No. 144 (2019), the National Labor Relations Board (the Board or NLRB) held that requiring employee confidentiality during workplace investigations does not constitute an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act (the Act or NLRA). This is yet another employer-friendly decision in a series of recent rulings overturning Obama-era Board precedent.
Back in 2015, the Board held that employers could require confidentiality during workplace investigations only where they demonstrated that confidentiality was necessary to preserve the integrity of the investigation. See Banner Estrella Med. Ctr., 362 NLRB 1108 (2015), enforcement denied on other grounds 851 F.3d 35 (D.C. Cir. 2017). This standard created a difficult situation for employers, placing the burden on them to determine if there was a need for confidentiality that outweighed any potential impact on workers’ NLRA rights. Moreover, the standard also conflicted with guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which encourages employers to keep investigations confidential to protect victims and to encourage reporting.