Disclosure of executive salary OK, court saysReprints
A worker's discussion of another employee's salary was protected under the National Labor Relations Act, but the company may have been justified in terminating the worker based on how he obtained that information, says an appeals court.
Pittsburgh employees of Dublin, Ohio-based MCPc Inc. complained about a shortage of engineers when they were taken out for lunch by Domenic Del Blasio, the company's director of engineering, on Feb. 24, 2011, according to Friday's ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in MCPc Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board.
During this discussion, Jason Galanter, a Pittsburgh-based senior software engineer, told Mr. Del Blasio that the company could have hired several additional engineers with the $400,000 salary it was paying a recently-hired executive.
When Mr. Galanter was subsequently called in for a face-to-face meeting with the company's CEO and asked how he had obtained the confidential salary information he gave several “shifting explanations” and was then terminated, said the ruling.
In December 2011 the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint charging that the company had violated the NLRA in terminating Mr. Galanter.
An administrative law judge concluded Mr. Galanter's discharge constituted an unfair labor practice, and in February 2014, the board upheld this finding. The case was then appealed to the 3rd Circuit.
“We conclude Galanter engaged in concerted activity when he communicated his dissatisfaction about salaried working conditions” at the lunch and this was also protected under the NLRA, said the unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.
The ruling states also, however, that evidence supports the company's contention “that it would have discharged Galanter regardless of the statements at the Feb. 24 lunch for improperly obtaining salary information and then being dishonest about his behavior.”
The court remanded the case for a determination whether it was protected activity, or the company's belief as to how Mr. Galanter obtained the salary information, that was the basis for his discharge.