Federal labor law protects workers’ rights to organize themselves in order to engage in collective bargaining and advocate for their interests. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) identifies these rights and prohibits employers from interfering with employees who are engaged in protected activities. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) adjudicates allegations of unlawful actions by employers and labor unions. Recently, a panel of the NLRB in New Jersey ruled in a case that alleged numerous NLRA violations by an employer, including refusing to negotiate with its employees’ authorized representative and firing multiple employees because of their union activities. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the employer violated multiple provisions of the NLRA. The NLRB panel affirmed the ruling, with some modifications. If you are involved in a labor dispute, contact a New Jersey employment lawyer today to learn more about your rights.
Workers have the right to “self-organization” under the NLRA. They may engage in activities directed towards organizing themselves to join or form a union, along with other activities related to “collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Section 8(a) of the statute identifies prohibited “unfair labor practices by employer[s].” These include interfering with protected activities by employees, discriminating on the basis of union membership or organizing activities, and refusing to participate in collective bargaining with authorized union representatives. Workers may report alleged violations to the NLRB.
The employer in the recent NLRB decision operates a hotel in North Bergen, New Jersey. According to the ALJ’s opinion, it entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with its employees’ union in 2011. The CBA expired in 2015, but the employer and the union had not been able to agree to a new CBA. As of the date of the ALJ’s ruling in late 2021, the 2011 CBA remained the most recent agreement between the two.
The union filed several complaints with the NLRB alleging unfair labor practices in 2017 and 2018, resulting in a 2019 ruling ordering the employer to negotiate with the union. In February 2020, the employer terminated a large number of unionized employees and replaced them with contract workers. It reportedly did not notify the union prior to doing this. At a meeting with the remaining employees the following day, one of the employer’s vice presidents told them that the union was “very unreasonable” and stated that the company would go bankrupt if the union remained “stiff and strong with negotiations.” While this all occurred near the beginning of the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, no one from the employer mentioned this as a factor in the company’s decisions.
The ALJ found multiple violations of the NLRA by the employer:
– “[D]isparaging and undermining the Union” in violation of § 8(a)(1);
– “[T]erminating all of its employees on February 29, 2020” in violation of §§ 8(a)(3) and (1); and
– Multiple instances of “refusing to bargain collectively with the Union” in violation of §§ 8(a)(5) and (1).
The ALJ awarded back pay to the terminated employees and ordered the employer to furnish information that the union had requested much earlier in the case. The NLRB affirmed this ruling on August 15, 2022. It amended the remedies awarded by the ALJ, such as by ordering the employer to offer reinstatement to the terminated union employees.
Workers who have disputes with their employers in New Jersey and New York need knowledgeable and experienced advocates to help them fight for their rights. The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group can answer your questions and advise you of your options. Please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation.