What penalties may an employer face if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finds it committed an unfair labor practice?

Author: Irene Stavrellis Englert, Englert Legal Consulting, LLC

Although the NLRB does not have the authority to impose traditional penalties or punitive damages on the employer, it does have significant remedial authority to provide "whole relief" to the charging party (the employee or union). In other words, upon finding that an employer has committed an unfair labor practice, the NLRB will order the employer to cease and desist from the unfair labor practice and to take affirmative action to remedy the violation.

The most common remedies are back pay and reinstatement for those who have been wrongfully terminated. In disciplinary cases, an employee's file may be expunged of any record of the wrongful discipline or termination. In other cases, the NLRB may order the employer to post a notice for a specified period of time (normally sixty days) notifying its employees that the employer had been found guilty of committing an unfair labor practice and reminding the employees of their rights under the NLRA.

In the most serious cases, the NLRB may impose an injunction on the employer, requiring the employer to maintain conditions at the workplace until the NLRB has issued its decision on the case. Additionally, if the employer has failed to comply with an NLRB order, the NLRB has the authority to have the employer found to be in contempt of court and to have civil and/or criminal contempt penalties imposed on the employer. Such contempt penalties include fines against the employer and personal fines and jail time for executives.