NLRB affirms legality of Argos zero tolerance cell phone policy

Sources: CP staff; National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board has determined that a ready mixed concrete producer can restrict employees’ possession of cell phones in heavy-duty trucks, disclosure of compensation and other business matters, and use of company e-mail for nonwork purposes without violating their National Labor Relations Act-defined organizing rights. 

An early-February Board order reverses four of five administrative law judge findings in a May 2019 decision involving Argos Ready Mix LLC, Naples, Fla. and Laborers’ International Union of North America Construction and Craft Workers Local 1652, Pompano Beach, Fla. The union and NLRB General Counsel had alleged NLRA Section 8(a)(1) violations—actions infringing Section 7-defined rights to organize—stemming from the producer’s corporate Cell Phone Policy, which states: “It is strictly prohibited for a cell phone to be in the cab of a commercial and/or heavy equipment vehicle.” Argos mixer drivers, moreover, must sign a Cellular Telephone Acknowledgement form referencing a “zero tolerance” position on violations. 

The policy underpinned a Naples plant mixer driver’s March-April 2017 suspension and termination. Management determined the driver had left his cellphone on a slump rack and was unable to show he had not possessed the device while in his truck. Argos informed Local 1652 of the suspension five days after the fact, and engaged union officials in an investigation comparing the driver’s January-February 2017 delivery schedule against call records that might indicate he had not used his cell phone during truck operation. Refusal to provide records led to termination, although Argos management continued to pursue a resolution with union officials and the driver for nearly another month. 

Examination of potential NLRA violations surrounding the termination appears to have led to a probe of Argos human resources policies. In addition to the cellphone restriction, the General Counsel questioned an Electronic Communications Policy and Confidentiality Agreement in light of NLRA Section 7 “concerted activity” provisions. Reversal of the administrative law judge findings reflect a return to Section 8(a)(1) standards or thresholds pre-dating NLRB revisions under the Obama administration.