Legal Briefing: NLRB Answers Don’t Answer That

By Mark Kobata

Jun. 3, 2014

Murtis Taylor Human Services Systems called employee Christine Zeh into an interview to investigate Zeh’s Medicaid billing work and possible misuse of sick-leave benefits. Another employee, union delegate Alton Hill, also attended the interview to represent Zeh. When the company’s human resources director would not state the company’s concerns and would only refer to Zeh’s possible “conflict of interest,” Hill repeatedly asked for clarification and advised Zeh not to answer the questions. Following the interview, Hill was suspended for “obstructing” the company’s investigation.

Hill filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Murtis interfered with his right to serve as Zeh’s representative. The NLRB held that Hill had a right to press the employer for clarification of its charges against Zeh, and that Hill had not obstructed the employer’s interview of Zeh. While Hill had advised Zeh not to answer particular questions, he had not interfered with Zeh’s giving answers, and she made the decision whether to answer the questions. Murtis Taylor Human Services Systems, 360 NLRB No. 66 (March 25, 2014).

Impact: Employers may not generally discipline an employee union delegate for advising an employee during an investigative interview. 

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Mark Kobata and Marty Denis are partners at the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Beverly Hills, California, and Chicago.

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