The Lawletter Vol 36 No 3, November 11, 2011
The National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") has promulgated a new rule, 76 Fed. Reg. 54006 (Aug. 30, 2011) (to be codified at 29 C.F.R. pt. 104), requiring employers to post and maintain a notice of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 151–169. The rule takes effect November 14, 2011. Pursuant to this rule, an employer who falls under the NLRB's jurisdiction must post a notice of employees' rights to organize a union and bargain collectively with the employer. The rule also sets out the size, form, and content of the notice and contains enforcement provisions. According to the NLRB, the rule is needed because employees are not aware of their union rights under the NLRA, and the rule will increase awareness to allow employees to effectively exercise those rights. See 76 Fed. Reg. at 54006.
The rule applies to any employer covered by the NLRA. As to retail businesses, including home construction, the NLRB will assert jurisdiction over employers that have a gross annual volume of business of $500,000 or more. For nonretail businesses, jurisdiction attaches to an employer that has an annual interstate inflow or outflow of at least $50,000. The rule also sets out a table categorizing certain employers and the required amounts of annual gross volume of business required to meet NLRB jurisdiction. See 29 C.F.R. § 104.204 tbl.
The rule sets out the content that must be included in the notice, informing employees that they have the right to organize a union to negotiate with the employer concerning wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment; to form, join, or assist a union; to bargain collectively with the employer for wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions; to discuss wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with coworkers or with a union; to take action with one or more coworkers to improve working conditions; to strike or picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or picketing; and to choose not to do any of the activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.
An employer's failure to post the notice may be considered interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed under the NLRA. 29 C.F.R. § 104.210. Furthermore, the six-month statute of limitations under the NLRA may be tolled in other unfair-labor-practice actions if the employer has failed to post the notice. Id. § 104.214(a). Significantly, if an employer's failure to post the notice is deemed to be knowing and willful, it may be used as evidence of motive in cases in which motive is an issue. Id. § 104.214(b).
The rule is controversial, and employer groups and members of Congress have questioned the NLRB's statutory authority to enact it. The Society for Human Resources Management, who opposed the rule, maintains that the NLRB exceeded its authority and that it has created a new unfair labor practice for failure to post the notice, a task that should be left to Congress through legislation. Because the six-month statute of limitations may now potentially be tolled by the NLRB in any unfair-labor-practice charge against an employer where the employer has failed to post the notice, such tolling could subject employers to unfair-labor-practice claims that were previously barred. Legislation has been proposed that would reverse the NLRB's August 30 decision. H.R. 2833, 112th Cong. (Sept. 1, 2011); see http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/179513-quayle-bill-would-reverse-nlrb-requirement-to-post-employee-rights.
The NLRB has the notice available for download on its website, www.nlrb.gov.
[A more detailed discussion by John Buckley of the new NLRB rule is contained in NLRG's most recent Employment Law Update, a complimentary electronic newsletter for friends and clients of the firm with an interest in employment law. To subscribe to this service or to read John's more detailed discussion, go to http://www.nlrg.com/employment-law-legal-research.]