Weigh context when punishing employee for angry outbursts.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to set rules prohibiting verbal harassment. Employees who violate "civility rules" typically face discipline.But another federal law protects workers who break civility rules by aiming angry outbursts at co-workers or supervisors. The National Labor Relations Act, administered by the National Labor Relations Board, protects employees' right to unionize and engage in so-called concerted activities to improve working conditions.Recently, the NLRB ruled that occasional angry outbursts--even if offensive enough to create a hostile environment under Title VII--are protected by the NLRA. The NLRB said employers have to consider the context of the outburst before punishing such an employee. Plus, the NLRB said even slurs and vulgar language that would be unacceptable in other contexts are protected by the NLRA.When angry words fly, check for these factors before disciplining:* A...

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