Companies can no longer silence laid-off workers in exchange for dismissal

Companies can no longer silence laid-off workers in exchange for dismissal

If your company lays you off, your employer may offer you severance pay — but only if you agree to abide by some restrictions.

Silence is often one of them.

But the National Labor Relations Board this week put employers on notice that they can no longer silence terminated workers in two very specific ways that the board says violate workers’ rights under sections 7 and 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act.

Employers can no longer include extensive written confidentiality clauses that require you to remain silent about the terms of your severance agreement. And they can no longer include a broadly written non-disparagement clause that prohibits you from discussing the terms and conditions of your employment with a third party. , and from communicating with others, including the union, and the Board of Directors, about his employment,” the board wrote in its decision Tuesday.

The decision is a reversal of what Trump-era NLRB members ruled in a previous case were valid restrictions on employees as a condition of receiving a layoff.

With the exception of railroads and airlines, US business employers are subject to the NLRB’s authority.

Although the labor board’s decision this week can be appealed, it is effective immediately. That means employers must review — and, if necessary, revise — their severance agreements to make sure they don’t include overly broad language that would restrict workers’ rights in the two ways the board’s decision indicated.

The board’s decision will give some power back to workers, but how that plays out remains to be seen.

“Companies are definitely incentivized to silence their departing employees…[because it helps them keep] all the skeletons in the closet,” employment attorney Alex Granovsky told CNN via email.

“This decision opens the door. While on the one hand sunshine is the best medicine, and greater exposure should lead to better companies, this decision could also change the dynamics of severance negotiations.

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