Communications Workers of America v. National Labor Relations Board, No. 20-1112 (D.C. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
T-Mobile’s Wichita service center employs approximately 600 customer service representatives. Since 2009, the Union has been attempting to organize the workers. In 2015, Befort, a customer service representative, emailed her coworkers on her work computer from her work email address encouraging them to join union organizing efforts. She sent several separate email batches sent over the course of a day, while she was on break or finished with her shift, stating, “contact me with any questions, but please do so outside of working hours.” T-Mobile reprimanded Befort for sending the email and sent a facility-wide email stating that it did not permit its employees to send mass emails through the company email system for non-business purposes. An ALJ held that T-Mobile violated the National Labor Relations Act by discriminating against the employee based on the union-related content of her email. The Board reversed, distinguishing evidence that T-Mobile had previously permitted mass emails on the ground that those emails were not similar in character to Befort’s email.
The D.C. Circuit reversed. The Board erred by relying on its own post hoc distinction between permissible and impermissible employee conduct to reject the evidence of disparate treatment. The policies and rationales that T-Mobile offered in defense of its actions do not support them. Actions taken and statements made by T-Mobile in response to Befort’s email reflect a singling out of union content.