Unions and the NLRB
Whether a company has a relationship with a union, wants to avoid having a union organize its workforce, or believes that it is not a target for any union, all companies have obligations regarding how they act in relation to the collective actions of their employees. Even when a company might never consider that union rights are implicated – such as where a non-union employee complains about wages or the company wants to implement a social media policy – an employer may face liability for infringing on an employee’s legally-protected actions.
Employers often seek to avoid their employees becoming unionized. If this is a company’s preference, the company needs to prepare itself prior to the initiation of any organizing activities by a union. In many instances, by the time a company is aware that it is a target of organizing efforts, it is too late. Companies need to set up and maintain policies and practices that make unions less appealing to their employees. In addition, the company’s position on unions and why they are not needed should be effectively communicated to employees well before any union tries to organize the workers. If a company is in the middle of a union organizing campaign, it needs to be careful in how it proceeds prior to an election, as there are even more restrictions placed on the employer’s activities during this time.
Managing Union Relations
Companies that have a union relationship need to manage that relationship. It is important to carefully negotiate collective bargaining agreements and related issues, as well as to memorialize these negotiations in clear writings. This helps to avoid controversy about what the parties intended down the road. Companies must also be careful to not inadvertently sacrifice their discretion to act on matters which are important to running their business. This can occur if a company has poorly written agreements or if it does not take the right actions in its daily dealings with the union.
Obligations of non-union employers
Federal labor laws do not only apply to companies that are unionized or who are subjects of union-organizing campaigns. The activities of non-union employers still fall under the restrictions imposed by these laws. Employer actions such as improperly written handbook policies and termination decisions based on impermissible policies or considerations can subject companies to liability under these laws.
Our experienced lawyers work with clients to address all situations in which federal labor laws may impact them. We help clients with unions cultivate a smooth relationship with their unions, while maintaining the companies’ rights and protections. We assist our unionized clients in all areas relating to their relationship with their unions, including negotiating and drafting agreements with unions, using union agreements to reduce the frequency of other employee claims, handling contract interpretation issues, navigating the process of disciplining union members, implementing new policies or practices, and handling grievances. For our non-union clients, we help them write policies consistent with the law, discipline and terminate employees, communicate their view on unions (either before or after a union organizing campaign has begun), and handle employee complaints and concerns in a way that minimizes the likelihood of an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board.
There are many situations where employers can face challenges under the labor laws. These include:
- Union organizing campaigns
- Employer challenges to union elections and/or the composition of a bargaining unit
- Unfair labor practice charges
- Claims brought in court to enforce employee rights under the labor laws
- Claims brought in court under other laws, which are barred because of the employer’s relationship with a union
- Claims that employer policies violate labor laws
- Claims that employer discipline and/or terminations violate the labor rights of non-union employees
Our attorneys are experienced in protecting the rights of employers as well as defending employers in the court and agencies when these issues arise. Whether your business is facing an aggressive union organizing campaign or is being charged with unfair labor practices, our experienced attorneys can aggressively defend your business from these attacks.