National Labor Relations Board Signals Broader Protections for Employee Rights

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Many employers are not aware that employees in non-unionized workplaces have certain labor rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Section 7 of the NLRA grants employees the right to engage in “concerted” activities for the purpose of “mutual aid or protection.” This protection applies not only to union activity and labor organizing but also to activities such employee communications about wages, hours, and working conditions. Recently, the acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued a memorandum communicating his intent to “robustly enforce” employees’ Section 7 rights.

The memo points out that employee advocacy can have the goal of “mutual aid and protection” even when the employees have not explicitly connected their activity to workplace concerns. Examples include an employee’s interview with a journalist about minimum wage legislation, participation in protests in response to immigration raids, and “solo” strikes to attend a demonstration for minimum wage increases. Importantly, the general counsel states that contemplation of group activity is not a required element of concerted activity.

In short, the memo makes clear that the general counsel’s office interprets Section 7 rights broadly and plans to enforce them through legal action. In light of this, employers should proceed carefully before taking any adverse action against employees in response to conduct that arguably could be categorized as protected concerted activity.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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