New Jersey Plant Closure Violated Employees’ Labor Rights, NLRB Rules

For far too many workers in New Jersey and throughout the country, employment can be uncertain or even precarious. Decisions made by employers far above an employee’s level can lead to them being out of a job through no fault of their own. New Jersey employment laws protect against wrongful termination, such as a decision to fire someone because of a protected category like race or religion, or termination in retaliation for legally protected activity. State and federal laws do not prohibit employers from laying workers off for non-discriminatory or retaliatory reasons, but they might set some limits. In the case of certain mass layoffs, for example, employers must provide advance notice and severance pay. Many collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) also contain provisions requiring negotiation prior to plant closures. Federal labor law requires employers to negotiate with authorized unions in accordance with their CBAs. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which enforces the main federal labor statute, recently ruled that an employer violated the law by closing a facility and laying employees off without notifying the union.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits employers from interfering with workers’ rights, as defined by § 7 of the statute, to engage in various protected activities. This includes organizing themselves for the purpose of collective bargaining, as well as other activities related to promoting employees’ well-being. The statute identifies a range of “unfair labor practices.” Many involve actions taken by employers, while others involve refusals to act.

Once a union has met the NLRA’s requirements for becoming the authorized representative of a group of employees, the employer must negotiate with that union in good faith. Section 8(a)(5) makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to refuse to participate in collective bargaining with its employees’ representative. Under § 9(a) of the NLRA, the union is the employees’ “exclusive representative,” in most situations, with regard to negotiations with management for “rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment.” This often includes negotiation over decisions that could lead to employee layoffs, such as the closure of a plant or other facility. The union has the right to negotiate regarding the terms and effects of these kinds of decisions.

The employer in the NLRB decision described above has, according to the decision and its attachments, been engaged in the foundry business for the past sixty years. It operated a plant in Moonachie, New Jersey. A union representative negotiated with the company owner to renew the CBA in late 2020. The owner was reportedly planning to close the plant while the negotiations were ongoing, but the union representative stated that the owner never mentioned this. In January 2021, the owner notified the union that the company was closing the plant and terminating the CBA.

The union filed a charge with the NLRB several days later alleging violations of §§ 8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA. An administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled in the union’s favor in 2022. In June 2023, the NLRB affirmed the ALJ’s ruling. It ordered the employer to compensate the employees for back wages and other losses.

If your employer has caused you harm by engaging in acts that you believe violate state or federal law, an experienced employment lawyer can help you assert your legal rights. The Resnick Law Group advocates for New Jersey and New York workers who have experienced losses due to unlawful practices in the workplace. Please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.

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