Can Quicken bar its workers from complaining to the media?



Is Quicken Loans' policy on what employees may discuss about their jobs too restrictive? The answer, according to the National Labor Relations Board, is "yes." Based on complaints filed by a former Quicken team member, Hugh MacEachern, the NLRB is challenging rules in the company's "Big Book team member guide."

In the past, the rules we've been told about by Quicken employees seemed pretty common-sense to us: don't engage protesters, don't speak with journalists about matters the company is under investigation for, and be polite and non-confrontational when commenting on social media. But the NLRB case, if we understand it correctly, seems to have found rules that go beyond that into whether an employee may complain about his work environment or compensation in any way at all.

Of course, this isn't exactly breaking news. In a cover story about Dan Gilbert, we spoke with an employee who told us that "Quicken, as a whole, is very touchy about news coverage and actively seeks out the identities of those who speak to the media anonymously — characterizing the process as a 'very diligent' hunt to out those who talk."

Of course, talk to Quicken about it, and they'll be in a hurry to set you straight about anything negative. In fact, you wonder if Quicken spokesperson Aaron Emerson would ever admit to anything not absolutely wonderful at the company — something that strains a spokesperson's credibility. In John Gallagher's mild news story on the subject of the NLRB suit, Emerson blasted the suit as "completely absurd" and "baseless." (Really? A federal agency just on a lark decides to go after a company's restrictive policies? Based on nothing at all? OK.)

But Emerson isn't just running communications against company critics, he's also running a sophisticated internal marketing program to the company's own employees. According to a source within the company, today Emerson sent out an email to Quicken employees not only stating MacEachern's complaints have been dismissed as "laughable," but also making light of his claims of discrimination during his employment, cracking that is "perhaps a first for a white male." The email also selectively lists some of the complaints made by the NLRB and asks, "Are you kidding me?!?! This is what our government decided to do with my tax money?"