The National Labor Relations Board has created a new webpage that explains an employee’s section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and allows the user to click on various Board cases that address protected concerted activity. The focus of these examples is to apprise workers of their rights under the Act, without the involvement of a labor union. The site states that:
The law we enforce gives employees the right to act together to try to improve their pay and working conditions or fix job-related problems, even if they aren't in a union. If employees are fired, suspended, or otherwise penalized for taking part in protected group activity, the National Labor Relations Board will fight to restore what was unlawfully taken away.
A sidebar on the site discusses what constitutes protected concerted activity and includes links to Board regional offices and contact information for individuals who believe such rights might have been violated.
In a press release announcing the launch of the new site, Board Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said:
A right only has value when people know it exists. . . . We think the right to engage in protected concerted activity is one of the best kept secrets of the National Labor Relations Act, and more important than ever in these difficult economic times. Our hope is that other workers will see themselves in the cases we’ve selected and understand that they do have strength in numbers.
The release of this webpage is a continuation of a trend at the NLRB to further worker awareness of rights under the Act. Last year the Board issued a rule mandating that most private sector employers post a notice describing an employee’s rights under the NLRA. In April, however, a South Carolina federal court found that the Board lacked the authority to promulgate the rule. The following day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted an emergency motion enjoining the Board from enforcing the rule. A final decision on the merits of the D.C. case challenging the legality of the notice posting rule is not expected until the fall of 2012.
More recently, the NLRB Acting General Counsel issued guidance on social media policies, and there has been a significant amount of activity by the Acting General Counsel to pursue claims against employers challenging various employee handbook policies.