Overview: Just because an employer has a non-unionized workforce does not mean that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does not apply. In fact, the NLRA offers protections to most employees, except agricultural laborers, domestic workers, family members, independent contractors and managers/supervisors. Similarly, the NLRA defines employer broadly and applies to all employers except for government organizations and railroads or airlines covered by the Railway Labor Act.
Therefore, it is important for employers to understand that, even absent a union, employees are guaranteed the right to engage in concerted activity to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions and an employer may not terminate them for this activity. In the wake of Facebook and forms of social media communication among employees, this has suddenly become a more prevalent protection for both union and non-union employees.
Trends: Recently the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has heard several cases - cases which did not involve a unionized workforce - and ultimately found that employers' social media policies, at-will disclaimers, and confidentiality of investigation policies violated the NLRA because they infringed upon an employee's right to engage in a protected concerted activity. Essentially, the NLRB is scrutinizing the language of employer policies that may hinder an employee's speech. Almost daily, the NLRB continues to actively pursue these claims against employers - union and non-union alike.
Author: Melissa Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
In Miller & Anderson, Inc., the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employer consent is not required for bargaining units that combine contingent and regular employees so long as the employees share a community of interest.
Updated to reflect the fact that West Virginia becomes a "right to work" state, July 1, 2016.
Updated to include information on a federal court's decision to temporarily bar the DOL from implementing and enforcing the new persuader rules.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled, in Lewis v. Epic-Systems Corp., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 9638 (7th Cir. 2016), that a health care software company's arbitration agreement violates the right of employees to engage in protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by barring them from participating in or pursuing wage-and-hour class action or collective claims. Because the ruling deepens a split among the circuits on this issue, it could lead to an eventual review by the Supreme Court to resolve the inconsistency.
Updated to reflect the fact that West Virginia becomes a "right to work" state on July 1, 2016.
XpertHR offers many tools and resources to help an employer understand joint employment issues.
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