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Questions on Unfair Labor Practice Laws

Actions by employers that violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and other related legislation falls under the term unfair labor practice. Complaints of unfair labor practices under the NLRA are investigated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Below are some of the top questions on the laws related to unfair labor practice answered by Legal Experts.

Are there any specific rules or processes to follow in North Dakota to suspend an employee without risking an unfair labor practices suit?

North Dakota is an at-will employment state, which means that an employer may terminate an employee with or without reason or notice. Of course, the employee is protected from termination due to discriminatory reasons—based on race, color, origin, gender, religion, etc. Also, an employee may not be terminated in violation of a public policy, for example: for filing a worker’s compensation claim, retaliation for reporting unfair practices, for taking FMLA leave and so on.

Having said that, North Dakota recognizes an exception to the at-will doctrine where the employer would have to follow the process written in the employee handbook if it states that an employee can only be terminated for a “cause” such as violating a company policy. If the employee handbook expressly states that the employment is at-will, the courts would, typically, acknowledge this disclaimer.

My company gave a vacant job position to a supervisor’s wife despite my having more experience and seniority. Can I sue for nepotism as an unfair labor practice?

If your employment is “at-will”, your employer may treat employees differently as long as such treatment is not against a written agreement/contract or for any discriminatory reasons prohibited by law.

If you believe that you were not promoted for discriminatory reasons, you may file a “charge of discrimination” against your employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, you would have to do so within 180 days of the alleged violation.

Nepotism itself is not prohibited by law. Therefore, it is not against the law for your supervisor’s wife to be favored by the company.. However, if you are over the age of 40 and she is younger than 40 years, you may have a case of illegal age discrimination.

Our Fine Arts faculty complained about the construction plans for a new high school by the school district. The School Board retaliated by threatening to jeopardize the contract negotiations with the Teacher’s Union which are due next year. Can we sue for unfair labor practices?

It seems likely that you have a case. Interfering or even an expression of intent to interfere with contract negotiations or union rights of the employee would constitute unfair labor practices. In such a case, your first action would be document any evidence or obtain witness affidavits of the incident. The Teacher’s Union may send a notice to the School Board stating that it has reason to believe that the Board is interfering with the Teacher’s Union rights and that any future communication will be recorded.

I have been working in the sheriff’s department of Florida for 20 years. I have been denied access to speak to the sheriff regarding the field training required of me probably because of the significant role I played in organizing a union. What would be my legal recourse?

An employer retaliating against an employee for organizing a union is classified as an unfair labor practice. In Florida, the Public Employees Relations Commission governs public employers whose employees are part of a union or a collective bargaining organization.

All public employees of the state, counties, municipalities, school boards, etc.— including police and fire departments—are covered by the jurisdiction of this Commission. The Commission will hear your case for unfair labor practices, which you may pursue through your union. You may also pursue the case on your own by hiring a local labor law attorney.

Though my contract with my union had expired, I continued working with them for another 11 months . However, a year after I quit, the union ratified a new contract which allowed retroactive pay for time worked without a contract only for existing workers, which does not include me. Can I file a class action against the union for the time I worked without a contract?

You may have a case for unfair labor practices against your union since they would need to act as your collective bargaining agent even if you are not in the union. You may pursue a case by contacting the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which investigates such charges. This federal agency which controls union and protected concerted activity may ask you to first contact the Information Officer at the agency’s local office to determine if the alleged violation falls within its jurisdiction. They would then provide you with forms and assist you in completing them to formally file a charge. You may have to file a charge within six months of the alleged violation as per the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

It is important to understand what classifies as unfair labor practice. For example, not paying employee overtime does not qualify as unfair labor practice. Similarly, while preventing the forming of an organization for labor rights would be an unfair labor practice, violating a collective bargaining agreement is not as long as the contract has not been repudiated. If you feel that you have been a victim of an unfair labor practice, it is best to write to Legal Experts to examine the details of your case.
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