Many of the features that we take for granted in the modern workplace are the result of labor organizing that occurred decades ago. The forty-hour work week and eight-hour work day are examples of benefits that labor unions achieved not only for their own members but for workers across the country. New Jersey employment laws regulate minimum wage and overtime pay thanks to the work of unions. Partly in recognition of the important role labor organizing plays in protecting workers’ rights, Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in the 1930s. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has the authority to adjudicate disputes involving alleged interference with organizing activities and other unlawful acts. Two recent NLRB decisions involving disputes arising in New Jersey demonstrate the NLRA’s importance for worker protection.
From workers’ point of view, the two most important provisions of the NLRA are probably § 7 and § 8(a). Section 7 broadly identifies workers’ protected rights, including self-organization and collective bargaining. Section 8(a) defines unfair labor practices by employers. These may include:
– Interfering with workers’ attempts to organize themselves;
– Preventing workers from forming or joining a union;
– Discriminating against employees because of protected union activities; and
– Refusing to engage in collective bargaining with employees’ lawfully chosen representatives.
The NLRB has the authority to investigate alleged violations of workers’ rights. The General Counsel of the NLRB may pursue a claim against an employer before an administrative law judge (ALJ). A party before an ALJ may appeal the ALJ’s decision to the full NLRB. Remedies for aggrieved workers may include back pay and reinstatement to a former position. The NLRB may also order an employer to cease and desist from further violations and to revise its employment policies and practices.
The NLRB issued two decisions on November 23, 2022 that address workers’ rights under the NLRA. In one case, the NLRB found that an employer made threats to multiple employees in violation of § 8(a)(1), and then fired one of the employees in violation of §§ 8(a)(1) and (4). An ALJ found that the employer instructed employees not to discuss “concerns about work assignments” and “threatened [them]…with unspecified reprisals” if they did so. The ALJ also found that, on the same day, the employer fired an employee for making internal complaints about “wages, hours and working conditions,” and threatening to file a charge with the NLRB.
The Board affirmed the ALJ’s findings and rulings. The order included an offer of reinstatement for the fired employee, along with back pay and compensation “for the adverse tax consequences, if any, of receiving a lump-sum backpay award.”
In the other case, an ALJ had ruled in an employer’s favor. The employer had “unilaterally rescind[ed], reduc[ed], and discontinu[ed] a set of ‘hourly rate bonuses’” without notifying the union or giving it an opportunity to negotiate. The NLRB reversed the ALJ’s ruling, finding that the employer violated §§ 8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA. It awarded back pay and other compensation to the affected employees.
Employment laws in New Jersey provide workers with a broad range of rights. If you believe that your employer has violated your rights, you need an experienced legal advocate to help you assert a claim for damages. The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group represent workers in New Jersey and New York in claims under state and federal law. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can assist you, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.