New York Becomes Sixth State Banning "Captive Audience" Meetings

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 15, 2023

On Labor Day, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill making New York the sixth state to prohibit employers from requiring employees to attend anti-union "captive audience meetings" or punishing employees who refuse to attend such meetings.

Senate Bill 4982 prohibits employers from discharging, refusing to hire or otherwise discriminating against an individual for refusing to attend a meeting, listen to a speech or view communication whose primary purpose is to convey the employer's opinions concerning religious or political matters. Political matters include the decision to join or support a labor organization. New York law already prohibits such employer actions on the basis of an employee's membership in a union.

The law became effective immediately upon signing.

Employers often use "captive audience" meetings (meetings employees are required to attend) as a tool to persuade employees to vote "no" on unionization.

The law's restrictions do not prohibit:

  1. Communicating information that the employer is legally required to communicate;
  2. Communicating information that is necessary for employees to perform their job duties;
  3. An institution of higher education from meeting with or participating in any communications with its employees that are part of coursework, any symposia or an academic program;
  4. Casual conversations between employees or between an employee and employer or employer's representative, provided participation is not required; or
  5. A requirement that is limited to supervisory and managerial employees.

Employers are also required to post a notice informing employees of their rights under the law.

Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon and Wisconsin all have similar laws, with Maine and Minnesota passing their laws this year.