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Work Rights Press – Steward’s Ed

WORK RIGHTS PRESS  – Cambridge, MA

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Work Rights PressWORK RIGHTS PRESS
P.O. BOX 381066, CAMBRIDGE, MA 02130  – workrightspress.com  –  1-800-576-4552
July 2017

A monthly newsletter from Work Rights Press – publisher of the most popular union-side labor law handbooks in the United States. 

Here’s a Bet:  Your Employer Has At Least One Illegal Work Rule 

In recent years, many NLRB decisions have focused on coercive work rules. In both union and non-union workplaces standards, which may appear innocuous on their face, have been deemed to have a “chilling effect” on the willingness of employees to engage in concerted activities such as union organizing, job protests, and campaigns for better working conditions.

Hundreds of standards have been found illegal because their reach is so broad that they could encompass conduct protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  They include rules barring employees from:

● Engaging in conduct that “conflicts with company interests”

● Discussing matters relating to the company with the press

● Soliciting on company premises

● Using company email systems during non-working time

● Secretly recording conversations with other employees or members of management

● Being discourteous to others

(Illustration by Nick Thorkelson)
NLRB Six-Month Deadline
Under the NLRA unions, employees must file ULP charges within six months of employer misconduct. In the case of illegal work rules, employers often argue that the limitations period begins when the rule was originally promulgated or distributed. But the NLRB says coercive work rules are “continuing violations,” allowing the union to file years thereafter – even if the rule has never been enforced.
Simple Fix?
An employer may be able to save a coercive work rule by clearly specifying that the standard does not apply to Section 7 activities. For example, the employer might add a sentence stating that “Nothing in this rule is intended to bar or deter employees from engaging in any activity protected by the NLRA.” Few employers take up this option, perhaps because they are afraid to officially acknowledge that workers have rights to act in concert.
Bargaining Strategy
 
A union meeting on a new contract can leverage employer work rule violations by including a bargaining demand that the employer expunge its illegal standards. The union can then assert that any work stoppage it may engage in will be a ULP strike, barring the employer from hiring permanent replacements.  
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For more on this topic, read The Legal Rights of Union Stewards and No Contract, No Peace, both by labor lawyer Robert M. Schwartz. Available for $20 on the Work Rights Press website.
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