By Sarah H. Lamar, published on March 7, 2012, in Business in Savannah.
When Congress enacted the National Labor and Relations Act (NLRA) in the 1930s to protect the rights of employees and employers from certain private sector labor and management practices that were damaging to the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S economy, it could not have foreseen the political volley the Act has become today, with opposing forces scrambling for leverage.
The NLRA protects workers’ freedom of association and self-organization for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a five-member board selected by the President with Senate approval, enforces the rights of employees to join together, organize and collectively bargain for competitive wage rates, working conditions and hours.
In December 2010, the NLRB passed a new ruling, originally slated to go into effect on November 14, 2011, that would require covered employers to post a notice inside their workplaces informing employees of their collective bargaining and other rights under the NLRA. Although the law had been in place for decades, such a posting had not previously been required.
Businesses and trade associations immediately challenged the posting requirement, along with several other Board initiatives considered contrary to employer interests and beyond the reach of the Board. The NLRB received more than 7,000 comments on the proposed regulation during the six-month comment period and lawsuits were filed challenging the NLRB’s authority to enact the rule.
Given the legal challenges, the effective date of the posting requirement has been delayed once again. Most recently, and at the behest of a federal court in Washington, DC, the NLRB announced on December 23, 2011 that it would postpone the new 11×17-inch poster mandate until April 30, 2012, at which time most private sector employers will be required to post the notice, in addition to publishing a link to the notice on an internal or external website if other personnel policies or workplace notices are published electronically. Once effective, failure to post the notice could lead to penalties such as the finding of an unfair labor practice under the NLRA or extension of the statute of limitations period for filing an unfair labor practice charge.
With the increased activity and scrutiny of the NLRB, it is especially important for all companies to further educate themselves about the NLRA and how it may apply to them – even if their workforces are not currently unionized and even if they are located in a “right to work” state. The NLRA covers most private employers that meet certain minimum standards for involvement in interstate commerce. The NLRA does not cover public employers and certain employers in the transportation industry such as railroads and airlines.
For more information, employers can visit www.nlrb.gov or seek advisement from an employment law attorney who can help ensure legal compliance with the NLRA’s rules and regulations.
Sarah H. Lamar is a partner at HunterMaclean who practices employment law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-236-0261.