Software Company Settles NLRB Complaint for $775,000

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

December 3, 2018

A Silicon Valley software startup has agreed to pay $775,000 to settle an unfair labor practice claim filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of 15 former software engineers who had sought to organize. The settlement agreement was reached just before the start of hearings.

Lanetix, a company that develops cloud-based software for shipping and transportation logistics, fired 14 engineers just 10 days after they petitioned to be represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Earlier, the company had fired a respected female engineer who had been advocating for better pay and leave policies and had started the effort to unionize. The engineers comprised the entire non-management staff of the company.

The CWA filed charges with the NLRB in January 2018, claiming the firings were in retaliation for union-organizing activity. The claim also stated that the director of engineering had told the lead engineer during a meeting that the company was aware of the employees' efforts to organize using Slack, an outside team messaging application, giving the impression that the employees were under surveillance. The employees also alleged that Lanetix threatened to outsource their work to Eastern Europe.

Such actions are considered unfair labor practices under Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA guarantees employees the right to engage in concerted activities to improve their working conditions.

In addition to the monetary settlement, the company must remove the firing from one of the former employee's records and post workers' rights notices and the settlement terms at its locations, according to the CWA. A union spokeswoman said most of the ex-employees had already found other jobs by the time the settlement was reached.