Could you violate the National Labor Relations Act and not realize it?

Posted Jun 18, 2012

Both employers and employees traditionally think of the National Labor Relations Act (“the Act”) and the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) as applying only to unions. However, it is important to recognize the protections afforded all employees under the Act and the NLRB’s enforcement of those protections. Indeed, the NLRB recently emphasized this non-union application on its new website launched June 18, 2012: “The law we enforce gives employees the right to act together to try to improve their pay and working conditions or fix job-related problems, even if they aren’t in a union.”

Under the Act, employees have the right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” The Act protects non-union employees who work together to better their working environment and employment conditions, and precludes employers from restraining employees in the exercise of their protected rights. For example, the NLRB found a Minnesota employer’s conduct unlawful when it terminated two employees who assisted in drafting a unanimous letter from the employees to ownership regarding alternatives to a salary cut.

Employers may be unknowingly violating the Act by restrictions contained in employee policies and handbooks, including social media policies that purport to restrict employees from “friending” each other or posting about the company on Facebook or similar sites.

Whether you are an employer, supervisor, manager or human resources personnel, it is important to be aware of the Act’s scope and application. Messerli & Kramer litigators Kristy Fahland and George Serdar are well-versed in the Act and are able to counsel clients in this area and represent clients in NLRB enforcement actions. Our litigators are also experienced in other areas of employment law, and proactively assist employers with audits of employee manuals, policies and handbooks. Consult our business litigation group when an employment issue arises, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of litigation.

This communication does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an attorney if you have questions.

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