NEW MANDATORY NOTICE OF
EMPLOYEE RIGHTS UNDER THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT
All Employers need to be aware that the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] is about to start requiring virtually all private-sector Employers to post an official NLRB Notice spelling out the rights of employees to organize for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their Employer and to engage in other "protected concerted activity," free from any interference or retaliation by their Employer.
The new NLRB rule does not create any new employee rights. Since 1935, private sector employees have had a federally-protected right to form a union, to support a union, or to act in concert regarding their wages, hours and working conditions. (They also have a right to refrain from doing so, if that is what they prefer.) It is an "unfair labor practice" for an Employer to interfere with those rights, or to threaten, coerce or restrain employees. But requiring Employers to inform workers of those rights will be new for most Employers.
(Government contractors are already required by the U.S. Department of Labor [DOL] to post a similar notice at their workplaces. Government contractors who post the DOL notice will not be required to also post the NLRB notice.)
The official Notice [a copy of which is enclosed] can be obtained from your local NLRB office or downloaded from the NLRB website: http://www.nlrb.gov/poster. (Note that the official poster used in the workplace must be 11 x 17 inches. If you are going to download it, set your printer accordingly.) You'll probably be inundated with offers to sell you a set of posters, but there's no need to purchase them from a commercial vendor.
Under the new NLRB rule, Employers are expected to post the notice on and after November 14, 2011. They will need to keep it posted from then on, wherever other employee notices are posted. If anyone removes or defaces it, you are expected to replace it with a clean copy. If the Employer posts employee policies or notices on an internet or intranet site, it will be expected to also post the NLRB Notice there as well.
If at least 20% of an Employer's employees are not proficient in English and speak a particular other language, it will be required to post a Notice in that other language. Translations of the poster into that other language can be obtained from the NLRB. The Spanish poster is available on the NLRB website.
Various Employer groups have filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the new NLRB regulation. But unless and until a court rules against the NLRB or enters a temporary restraining order putting the regulation on hold, the NLRB will enforce its regulation starting on November 14th.
How will the NLRB know whether or not an Employer posts the required Notice?
An Employer's non-compliance will be brought to the NLRB's attention if an employee or a union organizer blows the whistle on the Employer, or in the course of investigating some unrelated unfair labor practice ["ULP"] charge.
What are the consequences for an Employer who fails to post the Notice? The regulation says that failure to post is a ULP. If a failure to post is inadvertent, and the Employer posts the Notice once a Board agent calls the omission to the Employer's attention, no further steps will be taken. But if the Employer willfully refuses to post, presumably the NLRB will find the Employer guilty of a ULP and will enter a formal order compelling the Employer to post the Notice.
Are there other potential consequences? Yes. Normally, there is a six-month statute of limitations for unfair labor practice charges. That means that if an Employer commits a ULP (such as interference or coercion of employees) but no charge is filed within six months, the NLRB normally cannot take action against the Employer. But the new NLRB regulation suggests that if that Employer did not post the "Employee Rights Notice," then the Board may decide to extend the six-month statute of limitations for ULP charges. Also, if the Employer is ever charged with some other ULP, the Board may consider the failure to post the Notice as evidence of unlawful anti-union motive in the ULP proceedings.
If an Employer decides to comply with the new NLRB regulation and post the official "Employee Rights" Notice, supervisors should be coached on what they lawfully can and cannot say to employees, in case the Notice prompts any employee questions. Finally, any non-unionized Employer that would prefer to remain union-free should consider whether to also post or distribute a separate notice telling employees why it is posting the NLRB notice and explaining (in a lawful, non-coercive manner) why the Employer's philosophy is to encourage its employees not to go union.