T-Mobile has been breaking the law, as a matter of corporate policy, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge ruled on Wednesday. Judge Christine Dibble wasn't hearing complaints of abuses against individual workers—because T-Mobile has settled quite a few of those—but was looking at the company's employee handbook, its official policies for workers. Basically, the employee handbook issued a series of gag orders:
According to the ruling, T-Mobile US’s email policy and various confidentiality policies violate the law by restricting employees’ ability to disclose or discuss basic workplace issues, such as their wages. Similarly, Judge Dibble has ruled that the company’s policy restricting employees’ communications with the media is illegal, as it prohibits employees from speaking out on inquiries about wages or other conditions of employment. In all, Judge Dibble found that 11 of the 13 corporate policies or provisions at issue in the case are illegal.The judge ordered T-Mobile to remove the illegal passages from the rules and post notices letting workers know about the changes. T-Mobile is trying to downplay this as some kind of boring "technical issue in the law," but:
“This is not the case of a rogue manager here or there,” said Joseph A. McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University. “This is saying that the company’s handbook contained a number of prohibitions that clearly violate the workers’ rights.”Labor law is still law. Breaking labor law is still breaking the law. And that's what T-Mobile did. What's more, T-Mobile's German parent company is unionized, and that union has already been raising questions about the American company's dodgy labor practices, giving American workers a pressure point beyond the weak penalties the NLRB can impose. Larry Cohen, the president of the Communications Workers of America, said in a statement that "Deutsche Telekom, the principal owner of T-Mobile US, has claimed that its U.S. subsidiary follows the law. Now we have the official word: T-Mobile US is a lawbreaker. Bonn, the headquarters of DT, no longer can hide behind the false statements made by T-Mobile US executives. These behaviors would be almost unimaginable in Germany or any other democracy in the world." No kidding. What's Deutsche Telekom going to do about its law-breaking subsidiary?