Congresswomen Tell Merkel of T-Mobile Harassment Policy Concerns

Daily Labor Report® is the objective resource the nation’s foremost labor and employment professionals read and rely on, providing reliable, analytical coverage of top labor and employment...

By Tyrone Richardson

Nov. 24 — Twenty-five congresswomen sent a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel Nov. 23, urging her to pressure Deutsche Telekom and subsidiary T-Mobile to rescind policies that “restrict its US employees’ ability to take steps to address sexual harassment.”

The letter urges Merkel to ask the Bonn, Germany-based telecommunications company to change workplace policies that prevent employees from addressing sexual harassment and other workplace problems. The German government is a shareholder of Deutsche Telekom.

“Wherever workers have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements after complaining of harassment, discrimination, or other unlawful or abusive working conditions, they risk discipline by T-Mobile for speaking about the agreement or their complaints,” the lawmakers wrote.

“A worker should not have to risk his or her job while enduring months of legal action to have unlawful policies repealed incrementally state-by-state. Workers should know that the non-disclosure agreement is void and that they are free to exercise their legally protected rights.”

T-Mobile: Policy Changed

A T-Mobile representative told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 24 that the policy no longer is in effect, and the practice referred to in the letter was changed and a new policy was published in September.

The correspondence to Merkel was supported by the Communications Workers of America, which has been trying to organize workers at T-Mobile since at least 2008 (66 DLR A-9, 4/7/08).

CWA's parent group, the AFL-CIO, and other worker advocacy groups sent a letter to Merkel Oct. 8 asking her to pressure T-Mobile to change its policy. Both correspondences to Merkel reference a pair of National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge rulings earlier this year finding that a company confidentiality policy and some provisions of its employee handbook violate federal labor law (195 DLR A-8, 10/8/15).

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the first to sign the Nov. 23 correspondence to Merkel, released a written statement Nov. 24 describing the letter as a means to urge T-Mobile to respect the rights of its U.S. employees.

“We are twenty-five congresswomen who do not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace and we believe Chancellor Merkel won't tolerate it either. American workers deserve to be protected in the workplace and we urge Deutsche Telekom to ensure the highest standards, not the lowest,” McCollum said in the statement. “Chancellor Merkel must ensure that her government is not profiting from this unacceptable treatment of working American women or undermining their rights as workers.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information 
Text of the letter is available at http://src.bna.com/beU.