T-Mobile Inc. and affiliate MetroPCS Communications Inc. became the latest victims of the NLRB’s heightened scrutiny of employee handbooks, with a board judge having found that Quicken Loans unlawfully fired a banker accused of complaining about the job during a profanity-laced restroom conversation.

The rulings are part of the NLRB’s push in recent years to take a strong stand against handbook rules that could be perceived by employees to limit their rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which protects concerted activity such as the ability to discuss wages and working conditions.

Employees have the right to argue about working conditions and employers could get into legal trouble if they use words like “positive” or “unprofessional” without explicitly defining them.

“When you look at ‘positive,’ any reasonable person knows that it means,” said Steven W. Suflas, a labor and employment partner at Ballard Spahr. “No reasonable employee would misunderstand that to mean anything other than a rule you that you should get along with your co-workers. These rulings are so out of bounds in terms of HR best practices.”

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