Freund Baking Co., 847 (2001)

Docket Number:32-RC-04221

Freund Baking Co. and Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers International Union, Local

Union 119, AFL-CIO, CLC. Case 32-RC-4221

October 1, 2001




The National Labor Relations Board, by a three-member panel, has considered an objection to an election held March 9, 2000, and the hearing officer's report recommending disposition of it.1 The election was conducted pursuant to a Supplemental Decision, Order, and Direction of Second Election issued by the Board on November 16, 1999.2 The tally of ballots shows 3 for and 30 against the Petitioner, with 1 challenged ballot, an insufficient number to affect the results.

The Board has reviewed the record in light of the exceptions and brief, has adopted the hearing officer's findings3 and recommendations as further discussed below, and finds that the election must be set aside and a new election held.

We agree with the hearing officer's finding that the employee handbook is objectionable in that it reasonably tended to interfere with employees' free choice. Each employee receives, reviews, and reads a copy of the handbook, and is required to acknowledge (by signing a form) that he or she "has been given a copy of the [hand-book] summarizing the Company's policies and procedures and [has] read and understood the contents." The "Security: Confidential Information" section of the handbook states, in pertinent part:

Proprietary information includes all information obtained by the employees during the course of their work. This Manual, for example, contains proprietary information . . . . You may not disclose or use proprietary or confidential information except as your job requires. Anyone who violates this guideline will be subject to discipline and possible legal recourse.

Thus, by its terms, the rule prohibits employees from disclosing or using proprietary or confidential information, except as their jobs require. The rule also states that the manual contains proprietary information. Virtually

the entire handbook deals with wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Further, Plant Manager Serratore testified that the Employer considers numerous terms and conditions of employment to be proprietary or confidential information.

1 The relevant portions of the hearing officer's report are attached as an appendix.

2 330 NLRB 17.

3 The Employer contends that the hearing officer's findings and conclusions demonstrate bias. On careful examination of the hearing officer's report and the entire record, we are satisfied that the Employer's contention is without merit.

As the hearing officer found, employees could reasonably construe the "Security: Confidential Information" section of the handbook as prohibiting them from discussing their wages and working conditions with a union, as well as with others outside of the company. Further, we find, contrary to the apparent conclusion reached by the hearing officer,4 that because the above-quoted section of the handbook specifically refers to confidential and proprietary information, prohibits employees from disclosing or using this information, and states that "[a]nyone" who violates the guideline will be subject to discipline and possible legal recourse, employees could reasonably construe this section of the handbook as precluding them from discussing their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with other employees, as well as with individuals outside of the company.

Accordingly, we adopt the hearing officer's recommendation that Objection 1 should be...

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