The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects workers’ rights to organize themselves and engage in collective bargaining. Employers may not interfere with employee activities related to self-organization. Once employees have chosen to join a union or form one of their own, employers must negotiate in good faith with union representatives. Both federal and New Jersey employment laws state that employers may not retaliate against employees who participate in union organizing or various other legally-protected activities. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigates complaints about alleged violations of the NLRA. It also adjudicates disputes arising from many complaints. A recent NLRB ruling found that a New Jersey employer violated two provisions of the NLRA related to interference with organizing and refusal to negotiate.
Section 8 of the NLRA identifies “unfair labor practices” by employers and unions. Under § 8(a)(1), an employer violates the NLRA if it “interfere[s] with, restrain[s], or coerce[s] employees” with regard to their rights to engage in organizing. An employer violates § 8(a)(5) if it “refuse[s] to bargain collectively with the [employees’] representatives.” Employees may file complaints with the NLRB alleging violations of these and other provisions. The NLRB’s General Counsel (GC) may bring administrative cases against employers. These cases may go before an administrative law judge (ALJ), followed by review by a panel of NLRB members.
The case before the NLRB originated with efforts to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2018. The union represented about 165 employees at a facility in Annandale, New Jersey. It had filed unfair labor practice charges against the employer in 2016 and 2017 over disputes related to policies for personal time off and Paid Parental Time Off (PPTO). The employer reportedly revoked supervisors’ discretion over requests for personal time off, which the union claimed was in retaliation for an earlier complaint. A new policy initiated in 2017 gave eight weeks PPTO to non-union members, and none to union members. The union’s charges resulted in either dismissals or settlements.
Negotiations for the new CBA began in May 2018 and continued into early 2019. In its ruling, the NLRB describes the negotiations as “often acrimonious.” The union alleged numerous unfair labor practices by the employer during this process. One allegation was that the employer refused to bargain with the union on the issue of personal time off because of its prior complaints. Another involved statements by a representative of the employer suggesting that union members could get PPTO if they “[w]alk[ed] away from the bargaining agreement.”
An ALJ ruled in favor of the union on many of its charges in June 2019. The NLRB partially affirmed the ALJ’s order in September 2020. After finding that one of the panel members who participated in that ruling had a conflict of interest, however, it vacated that decision in August 2022. A new panel reconsidered the case and issued its ruling on August 25, 2023. It found that the employer violated §§ 8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA when it committed the two acts described above.
Employers in New Jersey and New York may be liable for damages if they violate their employees’ rights under state or federal law. If you believe that your employer has engaged in unlawful practices, you need a knowledgeable and experienced employment lawyer to help you assert your rights. The Resnick Law Group advocates for workers in a wide range of employment claims. Please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.