The National Labor Relations Board’s [declared] on April 29 that a company cannot have a rule requiring its employees to be “positive,” or more specifically “to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships.” The rule didn’t and couldn’t mandate actual happiness, it just threatened punishment for anybody who didn’t act happy enough.
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act says that employees have the right to organize, bargain collectively, and “engage in other concerted activities for … mutual aid or protection,” or not to do those things if they don’t want to. Section 8 then forbids employers from doing things that interfere with those rights.
In this case the union complained, among other things, that the Happiness Rule was ambiguous and could be interpreted by an employer to preclude any (my words here) griping, bitching, and/or moaning about work conditions, and that it was broad enough to jeopardize or “chill” even justified collective griping, bitching, and/or moaning. The Board agreed:
We find that employees would reasonably construe the rule to restrict potentially controversial or contentious communications and discussions, including those protected by Section 7 of the Act, out of fear that the Respondent would deem them to be inconsistent with a “positive work environment.