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John, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 5687
Experience:  Exclusively practice labor and employment law.
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In order to bargain for the health and safety of employees,

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In order to bargain for the health and safety of employees, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union demanded that several employers disclose the generic names of chemical substances used or produced, as well as the medical records of employees. The employers refused, claiming that disclosure would both invade the privacy of employees and compromise trade secrets. With some limitations, the NLRB in 1982 held that the employers did not bargain in good faith when they refused to divulge such information.* While upholding the union’s request, the board asserted that few matters could be of greater concern to employees “than exposure to working conditions potentially threatening their health, well-being or their very lives.”
However, the board also ruled that the employers could conceal individual employee identities before turning over the medical records and also that the managements did not have to disclose the generic names of chemicals that constituted proprietary trade secrets. Thus, the NLRB attempted to strike a balance between conflicting interests: the employer’s desire to protect both worker privacy and trade secrets and the union’s need for material information about potentially life-threatening work conditions.
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*Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., 261 NLRB 27 (1982).
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The same at least 250 words. You can go over if you have to. I have two more for you after this one. I appreciate all your help.

I generally agree with the decision and the balancing of interests it attempted to accomplish. On one hand the employer may in fact have documents or information that are proprietary and/or in need of protection of misuse. On the other hand the union needs various documents and information to adequately represent the interests of its membership. The converse of this is, of course, that management may become overly protective of documents and information and the union may abuse its right to request such information for the purpose of baiting management into an unfair labor practice. Thus, relevance of the information sought should be the guide to the requirement for production along with the prejudice the release of information may cause management. The decision is also remarkable for the premise that it ordered the parties to essentially come up with their own agreement on balancing these interests.

Ultimately, the Board in this matter reached a middle of the road decision, which one wonders if the parties could not have reached this compromise had they wished to reach an agreement. It agreed with management that some of the union’s requests may be overbroad and not designed to capture information for purposes of bargaining or grievance arbitration. On the other hand, it also found that health and safety information is paramount in the employment relationship and cannot truly be questioned as relevant. However, in citing to the Supreme Court’s Detroit Edison case, it found that a policy of accommodation may be necessary, even where the information is clearly relevant to collective bargaining because to otherwise reveal such information intact may cause the employer harm – in this case breach of employee privacy. Thus, it came to what may be considered an equitable decision to allow the parties to work out a disclosure of the information absent identifying the health information of the particular employee.

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