What is the NLRA and How Does it Protect Employees?
The National Labor Relations Act, “protects the rights of most private-sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions.” National Labor Relations Board website
In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was passed by Congress to guarantee that employees could organize themselves, bargain as a group, complain about unsafe conditions or unfair pay, and not fear reprimand or firing. It also created the independent federal agency, National Labor Relations Board, which helps protect those rights. Nearly 80 years later, the act and board are still active in protecting employees who wish to change their working conditions.
The Act was passed to guarantee employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.”
One way this law shields workers from unfair firing or demotion is through concerted effort protections. Concerted effort simply means that a small group, as few as two, who feel the same way about a certain workplace issue have certain protected rights. Here are a few examples of who is protected and what they may do:
A group of employees has the right to speak to their employer about unfair wages.
A group of employees has the right to talk about working conditions with each other.
- A single employee has the right to go to their employer on behalf of co-workers to report issues in the workplace.
One case that could never have been foreseen when the act passed years ago, included a conversation on Facebook by employees. According to an article on Workforce.com, one worker posted about her supervisor’s “criticism of their work performance in a message posted on a personal Facebook page.” Several other workers joined the conversation. When the supervisor became aware of the situation she complained to her executive director and the five people involved were fired. At the end of the suit the judge ruled that the employees communication on Facebook was similar to conversations “around the water cooler” which is a protected right. The five employees were reinstated and repaid for missed work.
If you are experiencing unsafe working conditions or unfair practices, it is not illegal to discuss it with others employees. If you have done so and are facing retaliation, it might be time to contact Scott • Wagner and Associates for help understanding your rights in the workplace.