A judge last week ruled that Quicken Loans and several members of its family of companies, including top-10 reverse mortgage lender One Reverse Mortgage, violated certain provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
On Thursday, Administrative Law Judge David Goldman ruled that Quicken Loans, along with affiliated companies One Reverse Mortgage, In-House Realty, Fathead LLC, Rock Connections LLC and Title Source, Inc. violated certain employees’ rights via language included within an employee manual dubbed “The Big Book.”
Since August 4, 2014, The Big Book was distributed to employees of each of the companies (named “Respondents” in court documents). The manual covers a wide range of topics, including information on employee benefits, provisions regarding non-discrimination procedures, servicing and protecting information for clients, as well as information about the mortgage loan process.
Goldman ruled that the Big Book contained certain “overly broad” rules that stand in violation with the NLRA.
Within the since-rescinded Big Book, one of those broad rules regarded the sharing of information on the internet, which stated, “Think before you Tweet. Or post, comment or pin. What you share can live forever. If it doesn’t belong on the front page of The New York Times, don’t put it online.”
The General Counsel alleges that this language violates the Act, “because it instructs employees ‘don’t put’ anything online, that ‘doesn’t belong on the front page of The New York Times.'”
“Although the Respondents may not have had protected activity in mind when they issued this warning, an employee considering this suggestion would reasonably feel chilled by this rule from expressing negative (but protected) information about the Respondents,” states Goldman’s ruling.
Another “overly broad” rule, according to Goldman, stated, “Keep it confidential. What shouldn’t you share? Non-public financial or operational information. This includes strategies, forecasts, communication that requires a disclaimer, and anything with a dollar figure attached to it (rates, programs, quotes, client information, salaries, etc.).”
The General Counsel alleges this language to be unlawful.
“Clearly, employees have a right under the Act to disclose many items ‘with a dollar figure attached’—such as salaries and operations information,” states the ruling. “By itself the instruction not to share ‘non-public financial or operational information’ is overbroad.”
The case against Quicken dates back to February 4, 2015, when Hugh MacEachern filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging violations of the NLRA by Quicken and its family of companies.
Quicken and the companies twice denied the allegations against them in May and December 2015. A hearing in this matter was opened November 3, 2015, adjourned, reopened and was completed December 8, 2015.
On December 4, 2015, the companies rescinded all versions of the Big Book, effective immediately.
Pursuant to motion of Quicken, the record was again opened on December 18 to receive certain exhibits offered by the companies. On the entire record, Judge Goldman issued his conclusions of law last week.
“Having found that the Respondents have engaged in certain unfair labor practices, I find that they must be ordered to cease and desist therefrom and to take certain affirmative action designed to effectuate the policies of the Act,” Goldman stated in the court ruling.
As a result of the court order, Quicken and companies were required to send a notice to employees acknowledging that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found violations of federal labor law.
The Order states that federal law gives employees the right to unionize, as well as the ability to choose representatives to bargain with the company on their behalf. The rest of the document provides clarification to employees’ rights regarding the overly broad rules listed in the since-rescinded version of the Big Book.
Quicken, however, believes the NLRB, and its administrative judges, are setting a “dangerous precedent” with Thursday’s ruling, according to a company statement Quicken Loans emailed to RMD on Monday.
“It is disconcerting that the NLRB found fault with common, rational and sensible workplace policies that no reasonable employee would object to in any manny, such as prohibiting team members from posting offensive content on social media or using company resources for personal business,” stated Quicken Loans.
“Even more disturbing, the NLRB found that our company’s policies related to restricting the public distribution of private client information was a violation of labor regulations,” the statement continued. “Not only is this outrageous and misguided, but the NLRB ruling conflicts with several other sensible federal and state laws that were enacted to protect highly sensitive and private information that lenders routinely obtain from borrowers during the loan process.
“This ruling exceeds the boundaries of rationality on numerous levels and we will clearly be challenging it in the court system where we expect to receive a hearing from a judge who will be guided by the laws of the United States and sagacity.”
View the ruling.
Written by Jason Oliva