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Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

Private sector employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), have the right to protest together — irrespective of whether or not they have joined the union — to improve their work compensation and conditions. Aggrieved employees may complain about the employer’s misconduct with any of the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) regional offices. It prohibits both employers and labor organizations from coercing or restraining employees exercising their rights. Wages and work conditions being the most important part of an employee’s work life, it is not unusual that several disputes arise from dissatisfaction over compensation. Below are some the top questions on the body that protects these rights of the employees answered by Experts.

I was reprimanded by my employer for saying that someone should call ASES, a union that represents state employees in Alabama. Can I write a rebuttal to this?

Under the NLRA, contacting a union and discussing unionization and collective bargaining is a protected right. Thus, you may respond saying that NLRA protects your right to call the ASES regarding unionization and cannot be deemed as a threat to any individual or organization. You may add that you are seeking protection against employer retaliation for wanting to call the ASES and will report any interference with exercising your legal right to the NLRB..

Under the NLRA, is it illegal for my boss to threaten to fire me or my coworkers if we discuss salaries and what we or others make?

While employers have the right to protect certain information as confidential, the NLRA would not consider employees discussing salaries among themselves as information that is protectable. You may report your employer to the labor union or the NLRB if you feel the employer discriminates against certain sections of employees and you were discussing wages and unionizing in order to help these employees.

Also, it is important to understand that discussing wages is not encouraged at workplaces as it falls under the privacy concerns of employees Therefore confidentiality is sought in this matter, whether or not a confidentiality clause regarding wages exists in the employee handbook. Since most of the employees in the U.S. are “employees at will”, an employee may be terminated for any or no reason at all.

Are closed meetings between union representatives and management protected as private and confidential under the NLRA?

There is no duty of confidentiality between representatives and management. It is not similar to the attorney-client privilege. There has been no privilege established under the law for union representatives and management. It is up to the union and management to agree to keep their discussions private and confidential if they choose to do so. That would be a contractual agreement and not a privilege established by law.

The NLRB is helping me fight for reinstatement to my job lost due to wrongful termination. Can I also file a civil suit for damages?

If by damages you are looking to recoup “front pay”, or money that represents potential future wages, this may not be an easy course as the court does not always look favorably on these cases. However, the NLRB may help you recover penalties and damages. You may pursue a case under the NLRA, which prohibits retaliatory action against employees for pursuing union activities. Under Section 8 (a)(3) of the NLRA, you may be compensated for either salary or any other dues you would have received had you not been terminated for union activity. If the NLRB finds a case of violation, it will issue an order of reinstatement of back-pay or a cease-and-desist order. Since the award for compensation is sought by the NLRB, it is best to hire an attorney to pursue the case against your employer.

What are the legal rights of union committee members in the railroad unions under Railway Labor Act (RLA) versus NLRA? And is any kind of concerted activity legal under the Act?

Both the NLRA and the RLA grant employees the right to join or form union or assist labor organizations for collective bargaining or representation and to engage in concerted activities for the same. Both also forbid any limitation or denial of the freedom to self-organize or join labor organization. The critical difference is that, unlike the NLRA, the RLA does not provide railway employees with protected concerted activities.

The NLRA also makes it illegal for unions to threaten an employee with termination, refuse to address a grievance, discriminate against or take any adverse action if the employee refuses to join or support the union. Also, while private sector employees are covered by the NLRA, those exclude from coverage are public-sector employees, employees of air and rail carriers covered by the Railway Labor Act, independent contractors, agricultural and domestic workers, and supervisors.
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