© 2018 by National Union of Nuclear Security Officers NUNSO all rights reserved.

Employee Rights

The National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of most private-sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions. If you believe your rights have been violated, or that an employer or a union has engaged in unlawful conduct, you may file a charge through one of the NLRB regional offices or you can contact the NUNSO and we will help assist you in filing a charge. 

 

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act) guarantees 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 other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection," as well as the right "to refrain from any or all such activities."

Employees

The law protects the right of employees to engage in protected concerted activities-group action to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions and to engage in union activities and support a union. You also have a right to not engage in protected concerted or union activities. The statements contained in this smart phone application are intended for users' general information. 

Employees have the right to unionize, to join together to advance their interests as employees, and to refrain from such activity. It is unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights. For example, employers may not respond to a union organizing drive by threatening, interrogating, or spying on pro-union employees, or by promising benefits if they forget about the union.

Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7" of the Act. For example, you may not

  • Threaten employees with adverse consequences, such as closing the workplace, loss of benefits, or more onerous working conditions, if they support a union, engage in union activity, or select a union to represent them.

  • Threaten employees with adverse consequences if they engage in protected, concerted activity. (Activity is "concerted" if it is engaged in with or on the authority of other employees, not solely by and on behalf of the employee himself. It includes circumstances where a single employee seeks to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, as well as where an employee brings a group complaint to the attention of management. Activity is "protected" if it concerns employees' interests as employees. An employee engaged in otherwise protected, concerted activity may lose the Act's protection through misconduct.)

  • Promise employees benefits if they reject the union.

  • Imply a promise of benefits by soliciting grievances from employees during a union organizing campaign. (However, if you regularly solicited employee grievances before the campaign began, you may continue that practice unchanged.)

  • Confer benefits on employees during a union organizing campaign to induce employees to vote against the union.

  • Withhold changes in wages or benefits during a union organizing campaign that would have been made had the union not been on the scene, unless you make clear to employees that the change will occur whether or not they select the union, and that your sole purpose in postponing the change is to avoid any appearance of trying to influence the outcome of the election.

  • Coercively question employees about their own or coworkers' union activities or sympathies. (Whether questioning is coercive and therefore unlawful depends on the relevant circumstances, including who asks the questions, where, and how; what information is sought; whether the questioned employee is an open and active union supporter; and whether the questioning occurs in a context of other unfair labor practices.)

  • Prohibit employees from talking about the union during working time, if you permit them to talk about other non-work-related subjects.

  • Poll your employees to determine the extent of their support for a union, unless you comply with certain safeguards. You must not have engaged in unfair labor practices or otherwise created a coercive atmosphere. In addition, you must (1) communicate to employees that the purpose of the poll is to determine whether the union enjoys majority support (and that must, in truth, be your purpose); (2) give employees assurances against reprisal; and (3) conduct the poll by secret ballot.

  • Spy on employees' union activities. ("Spying" means doing something out of the ordinary to observe the activity. Seeing open union activity in workplace areas frequented by supervisors is not "spying.")

  • Create the impression that you are spying on employees' union activities.

  • Photograph or videotape employees engaged in peaceful union or other protected activities.

  • Solicit individual employees to appear in a campaign video.

  • Promulgate, maintain, or enforce work rules that reasonably tend to inhibit employees from exercising their rights under the Act.

  • Deny off-duty employees access to outside nonworking areas of your property, unless business reasons justify it.

  • Prohibit employees from wearing union buttons, t-shirts, and other union insignia unless special circumstances warrant.

  • Convey the message that selecting a union would be futile.

  • Discipline or discharge a union-represented employee for refusing to submit, without a representative, to an investigatory interview the employee reasonably believes may result in discipline.

  • Interview employees to prepare your defense in an unfair labor practice case, unless you provide certain assurances. You must communicate to the employee the purpose of the questioning, assure him against reprisals, and obtain his voluntary participation. Questioning must occur in a context free from employer hostility to union organization and must not itself be coercive. And questioning must not go beyond what is needful to achieve its legitimate purpose. That is, you may not pry into other union matters, elicit information concerning the employee's subjective state of mind, or otherwise interfere with employee rights under the Act.

  • Initiate, solicit employees to sign, or lend more than minimal support to or approval of a decertification or union-disaffection petition.

  • Discharge, constructively discharge, suspend, layoff, fail to recall from layoff, demote, discipline, or take any other adverse action against employees because of their protected, concerted activities.

How to Enforce Your Rights

 

If you believe your rights or the rights of others have been violated, you should contact the National Labor Relations Board promptly to protect your rights, generally within six months of the unlawful activity. You may make inquiries of the NLRB without your employer or a union, or anyone else being informed of the inquiry. A charge against an employer or union must be filed to initiate an investigation; charges may be filed by any person and need not be filed by the employee directly affected by the violations. Employees should seek assistance from the nearest Regional NLRB office, which can be found by clicking "Contact NLRB" above. It is illegal for an employer or union to retaliate against employees for filing charges or participating in NLRB investigation or proceedings.

If the NLRB determines that your rights have been violated by an employer or a union, you may be awarded appropriate remedial relief. For example, if an employer has unlawfully fired an employee, the NLRB may order the employer to rehire the employee and to pay the employee lost wages and benefits. Likewise, if a union's unlawful conduct has caused an employee to lose a job, the NLRB may order the union to seek the employee's reinstatement and to make the employee whole financially. In all cases, the NLRB seeks to undo as much as possible the effects of whatever unlawful conduct has occurred, including by ordering the employer or union to stop violating the law and to post a remedial notice informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Are You Covered?

 

Excluded from coverage under the Act are public-sector employees (employees of state, federal and local governments and their sub-divisions), agricultural and domestic workers, independent contractors, workers employed by a parent or spouse, employees of air and rail carriers covered by the Railway Labor Act, and supervisors (although supervisors that have been discriminated against for refusing to violate the NLRA may be covered).

Concerted activity

 

Federal law protects employees engaged in union activity, but that's only part of the story. Even if you're not represented by a union - even if you have zero interest in having a union - the National Labor Relations Act protects your right to band together with coworkers to improve your lives at work.

You have the right to act with coworkers to address work-related issues in many ways. Examples include: talking with one or more co-workers about your wages and benefits or other working conditions, circulating a petition asking for better hours, participating in a concerted refusal to work in unsafe conditions, and joining with coworkers to talk directly to your employer, to a government agency, or to the media about problems in your workplace. Your employer cannot discharge, discipline, or threaten you for, or coercively question you about, this "protected concerted" activity. However, you can lose protection by saying things about your employer that are egregiously offensive or knowingly and maliciously false, or by publicly disparaging your employer's products or services without relating your complaints to any labor controversy.

Social media

 

Even if you are not represented by a union, federal law gives you the right to band together with coworkers to improve your lives at work - including joining together in cyberspace, such as on Facebook.

Using social media can be a form of "protected concerted" activity. You have the right to address work-related issues and share information about pay, benefits, and working conditions with coworkers on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media. But just individually griping about some aspect of work is not "concerted activity": what you say must have some relation to group action, or seek to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, or bring a group complaint to the attention of management.

Strikes, Pickets and Protest

 

All employees - union or not - have the right to participate in a protected strike, picket or protest.

You have a right to strike, picket, and protest regarding work-related issues, but there are limitations and qualifications on the exercise of that right. Your right to engage in these activities depends on the object or purpose of the action, on its timing, or on the conduct of those involved. (For more about unprotected strikes, see the "I am represented by a union" and "union rights and responsibilities" sections of this app.) Violence or other serious misconduct, such as destruction of property, is not protected.

Right to refrain

 

Federal law protects your right to decline to participate in union organizing or concerted activity, and to campaign against a union during an organizing campaign.

Your Right to Form a Union

 

Not represented by a union, but want to be?

If a majority of workers wants to form a union, they can select a union in one of two ways: If at least 30% of workers sign cards or a petition saying they want a union, the NLRB will conduct an election. If a majority of those who vote choose the union, the NLRB will certify the union as your representative for collective bargaining. An election is not the only way a union can become your representative. Your employer may voluntarily recognize a union based on evidence - typically signed union-authorization cards - that a majority of employees want it to represent them. Once a union has been certified or recognized, the employer is required to bargain over your terms and conditions of employment with your union representative. Special rules apply in the construction industry.

Your Rights during Union Organizing

 

You have the right to form, join or assist a union.

You have the right to organize a union to negotiate with your employer over your terms and conditions of employment. This includes your right to distribute union literature, wear union buttons t-shirts, or other insignia (except in unusual "special circumstances"), solicit coworkers to sign union authorization cards, and discuss the union with coworkers. Supervisors and managers cannot spy on you (or make it appear that they are doing so), coercively question you, threaten you or bribe you regarding your union activity or the union activities of your co-workers. You can't be fired, disciplined, demoted, or penalized in any way for engaging in these activities.

Working time is for work, so your employer may maintain and enforce non-discriminatory rules limiting solicitation and distribution, except that your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms. Also, restrictions on your efforts to communicate with co-workers cannot be discriminatory. For example, your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about the union during working time if it permits you to talk about other non-work-related matters during working time.