PERB ruling:  An employer cannot issue an employee a broad directive not to talk to others while the employee is on administrative leave

In Perez v. Los Angeles Community College District, an employer placed an employee on administrative leave pending a “fitness for duty” examination.  The employer directed the employee “not to contact any members of the faculty, staff or students” while on leave. 

The Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) held that the employer’s directive was overbroad and vague, and therefore unlawfully interfered with the employee’s right to engage in protected activities. A work rule or directive is overbroad or vague if employees would reasonably interpret it to mean that they can’t engage in protected activity such as discussing their working conditions with other members of their Union, initiating a grievance, or otherwise enlisting the support of fellow employees.  PERB found that this employer’s directive was absolute and did not include any clarifiers.  The directive was unlawful even though the employer did not threaten the employee with discipline as a consequence of violating it.

PERB noted that in other circumstances that were not present in this case, an employer may need to conduct a confidential investigation.  However, it is the employer’s burden to prove the need for confidentiality, and the scope of any confidentiality requirement should be limited appropriately.

By Anne Yen | January 16, 2015

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