The Associate General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board has notified the NLRB’s Regional Directors, Officers-in-Charge and Resident Officers that they “should be cognizant of potential literacy issues when considering remedies” and consider requiring employers who have been found in violation of the Act to read aloud the Board’s “Notice To Employees” to assembled employees to overcome written language barriers in appropriate cases. Memorandum OM 16-21 (June 21, 2016).

Remedies in unfair labor practice cases against employers almost always include a “Notice to Employees” that must be posted in conspicuous places in the employer’s workplace, typically for 60 days. (The Notice contains several paragraphs beginning with “WE WILL” and “WE WILL NOT” by which an employer assures employees it will comply with the National Labor Relations Act and not repeat the violations of the Act that the Board has found.)

The Board has required that a notice be read aloud to employees where an employer’s misconduct has been “sufficiently serious and widespread that reading of the notice will be necessary to enable employees to exercise their Section 7 rights free of coercion.” This remedial action is intended to ensure that “employees will fully perceive that the [r]espondent and its managers are bound by the requirements of the Act.”

The Associate General Counsel’s memorandum seeks to ensure that Notice readings are extended to situations “where a traditional notice posting remedy may be ineffective because some unit employees are unable to read the notice, either in English or the language of their country of origin.” The Memorandum also instructs that regional offices that become “aware of literacy issues among affected workers” during the investigative stage of a case “should seriously consider whether traditional notice posting will sufficiently remedy the statutory violations if the charge allegations are found to have merit.”