Laws that protect employees’ rights can only be effective if workers feel confident that they can assert their rights without suffering even worse consequences from their employers. A worker who believes their employer has violated the law will not be likely to make a complaint if their employer can demote or fire them in retaliation and with impunity. Workers will hesitate to exercise their rights to engage in labor organizing if nothing is stopping their employers from retaliating against them. Federal and New Jersey employment laws include provisions that bar employers from discriminating or retaliating against workers who engage in protected activities. A New Jersey federal court recently granted a temporary injunction in a lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of several workers who alleged wrongful termination. The court ordered their employer to reinstate them.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects workers’ rights to engage in activities related to organizing for the purpose of collective bargaining with their employers. Section 8(a)(1) of the statute prohibits employers from interfering with workers who are engaging in protected activities. Section 8(a)(3) bars discrimination against workers who have joined unions or participated in organizing. The NLRB has authority under § 10(j) of the NLRA to file lawsuits seeking injunctions to prevent or remedy violations of workers’ rights.
The defendant in the NLRB lawsuit operates a commercial cleaning business. According to the court’s ruling, two employees engaged in acts protected by the NLRA at various times in early 2022. This included meetings with representatives of the defendant at which they spoke on behalf of other employees regarding “employee grievances, such as mistreatment from supervisors and threats of being fired.” The two employees reportedly met with union organizers and representatives, followed by discussions with other employees about possibly joining the union. Within a few days, they heard from co-workers that the defendant “was looking for an excuse to fire [them].”
Both employees received notices of termination on the same day in June 2022. The defendant’s stated reason, according to the court’s opinion, was “poor performance.” The court notes that neither employee had “been written up or disciplined.” The defendant reportedly also claimed that the two workers “were terminated as part of a reduction in force.” Other employees then withdrew their support for joining a union, stating that “they did not want to be fired next.”
The NLRB commenced an administrative case against the defendant in March 2023. It alleged that the defendant violated §§ 8(a)(1) and (3) of the NLRA by terminating the two employees. A petition for a temporary injunction under § 10(j) followed in June 2023.
On July 6, a judge found that the NLRB had “established reasonable cause to believe” that the defendant violated the employees’ rights under the NLRA. The NLRB met a two-part test established by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals:
1. The NLRB’s case is based on “a substantial, non-frivolous legal theory”; and
2. The evidence, “taking the facts favorably to the board…support[s] that theory.”
The court issued the temporary injunction and ordered the employees’ reinstatement.
If you believe that your employer has engaged in acts that violate federal or state employment laws, you need an experienced and skilled advocate to help you assert your rights. The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group represent workers in New Jersey and New York who have suffered losses because of unlawful workplace practices. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.