Sitel has reached a settlement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on charges that it violated workers’ rights at its Asheville call center. While the company admits no wrongdoing, it does agree to meet many of the union’s demands, including posting notices of workers’ rights at its facility and changing its social media and solicitation policies.
The company faced charges that it had threatened to fire a worker for participating in union organizing, that it violated federal law through an overly restrictive social media policy and by arbitrarily removing union materials from employees’ desks and other areas in the facility. Some of the facility’s employees, complaining about low wages and working conditions, are trying to organize a union at the call center.
In May, the National Labor Relations Board found that the charges had enough substance to proceed, and had set a hearing for Aug. 20. On June 12, Ogletree-Deakins, the law firm representing Sitel, denied the charges. In a terse statement, the firm also said the company’s policies “speak for themselves.”
Now the company has agreed to settle on the charges, and change or end those same rules.
“The settlement reflects a 100% remedy of the complaint allegations,” NLRB Attorney Shannon Meares notes in an email to union officials.
“We’re pleased at the findings of the NLRB and we’re hopeful that Sitel will conduct themselves within the guidelines provided by the law,” IBEW Regional Organizer John Murphy tells Xpress. “We’re looking forward to moving forward with our organizing drive.”
“Sitel is pleased to announce that it has reached a satisfactory agreement with Region 11 of the National Labor Relations Board on an outstanding complaint based on charges filed by the union which is attempting to organize its Asheville location,” a statement from Sitel to Xpress reads. “The Company maintains its position that it has not violated the law as alleged. The terms of the settlement are satisfactory to Sitel and the NLRB.”
“Sitel disputed the allegations in the NLRB charges and believes it did not violate the law however we were able to reach an agreement that accurately reflects the law and continues to allow Sitel to address its legitimate business needs,” Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Wellman adds.
Sitel will post a notice of the settlement and its conditions at the Asheville call-center for at least 60 days, and make the document available company-wide on its intranet. Furthermore, the company agrees to “remove or revise” its social media policy, which forbade employees to mention the company, post information about it or speak to the media without express approval.
“We will not maintain any policies that stop you or require that you get authorization before posting the company’s name, any reference to the company, or any information about the company on the internet on your own behalf or on behalf of others,” the notice the settlement requires the company to post reads. “We will not inform you that the reason you are not authorized to post information about Sitel on the internet is to prevent reputation damage, false or exaggerated statements.”
Sitel will also change its solicitation and “clean desk” policies, with the notice to Asheville call center employees reading “you may have union-related and NLRB-related information and materials at work and we will not stop you from doing so or remove them from you.”
When asked by Xpress about the policy changes, Wellman asserts that “the new social media policy reflects Sitel’s actual practice on social media issues so there is no change in ‘policy’ on that point. Sitel also is revising its media policy so that it more clearly states in every situation that it applies to only employees attempting to speak in an official capacity on behalf of Sitel, which is how Sitel has always enforced that policy.”
“Likewise, Sitel agreed to clarify that its policy limits solicitation only in working areas during working time,” Wellman adds. “Non-working time includes meal and rest breaks. This policy clarification sets proper expectations for both parties.”
The settlement follows an in-depth Xpress cover story on the organizing campaign that included workers involved talking on the record about their grievances over wages and working conditions. After the story’s publication, Wellman responded, claiming that the company does not discourage union organizing.