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August 4, 2011

Why You Should Care About the NLRB

Filed under: Employment Law,General HR Buzz,Unions/NLRB7:00 am

Unless you are part of an organization in which some or all employees are represented by a union, you might believe that what the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) does makes little difference in your work. That assumption is wrong, and some companies are learning this lesson the hard way. Within the last year, the NLRB has become very interested in social media and computer use by employees and has issued several directives to address these concerns.

Why would the NLRB even care about social media and computer use? Social media forums such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have become a virtual meeting place in which employees could participate in “protected concerted activity.” The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) outlines in Section 7 employee rights: the rights to self-organize, form, join, or assist in a labor union, to bargain collectively with their own representatives. Section 8 of the NLRA defines unfair labor practices by the employer. Employers may not interfere with the rights of employees defined in Section 7. Employers may not retaliate against an employee who files charges under the NLRA.

Even if you are a non-union employer, certain parts of the NLRA apply to your company. Recently, the NLRB settled with build.com (an online retailer of home improvement products and a non-union employer) and a former employee. The employee was terminated after she posted comments about the company to her Facebook page. She charged that build.com had retaliated against her after she discussed possible state labor violations. Some of her “Facebook friends” who were also employees commented on her posts.

One of the most important tools to guard against claims of this nature is to ensure your company’s computer use and social media policies are updated (or created in the first place!) to reflect compliance with the NLRB’s directives. You should also take a look at your discipline procedures to be sure you are in compliance in that area.

Read more about the National Labor Relations Act: http://www.nlrb.gov/national-labor-relations-act

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