DETROIT – Quicken Loans’ book of employee rules didn’t violate its workers’ free-speech rights because it was irrelevant to daily operations and was largely ignored by staffers, the mortgage giant said.
Attorney Russell Linden told the administrative law judge hearing a case this week against Detroit-based Quicken brought by the National Labor Relations Board that the handbook known as the Big Book was “an afterthought at best after it was distributed.”
Joanna Cline, chief marketing officer for Quicken spinoff firm Fathead, echoed that in her testimony during the hearing, as did other Quicken employees.
“I am not aware of the Big Book being used” for any personnel decisions, Cline testified. Saying she received a copy at her orientation when hired in 2011, Cline said she never read the document. “I put it in a drawer” and later discarded it, she said.
The judge could take up to several weeks to issue a decision, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/1TAtazN ). If he rules against Quicken, the company can appeal to the full National Labor Relations Board and in federal court.
The NLRB complaint brought earlier this year said Quicken overly restricted employees’ free speech and should rewrite its rules for workers and educate employees about their rights.
The handbook cautioned employees against speaking to media and restricted conduct Quicken deemed damaging to its interests. The complaint said the rules violated the National Labor Relations Act, which permits workers to discuss pay and other policies for organizing for collective bargaining.
NLRB attorney Patricia Fedewa described the rules as “overly broad,” saying they “chill” the right to discuss forming a union.
Quicken CEO Bill Emerson said the company told employees Friday that the handbook was rescinded. Quicken earlier denied that its work rules were overly restrictive and both sides participated in settlement talks in recent weeks, but they didn’t avert the trial.
In a statement Tuesday, Quicken said “meritless and frivolous claims” were brought by “overzealous government officials seeking company admissions to untrue and trivial allegations.”
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com