Knowing your rights in the workplace is essential to prevent exploitation by employers and improve your working conditions. Many of your actions are federally protected by law, with institutions dedicated to enforcing these rights.
But how do you know which labor rights are protected so you can recognize when your employer has gone too far? Below we will explain the legal backing of your protected labor rights and how to identify possible violations, also known as unfair labor practices, when they arise.
The National Labor Relations Act
In 1935, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a landmark bill that has been the most influential law protecting the labor rights of private-sector employees. The NLRA dictates proper labor interactions between unions, employees, and employers. Section 7 of the law specifies the foundational groups of protection – the right to join unions, bargain collectively, and engage in concerted activity (working together to improve working conditions). As a worker, understanding the application of these rights is best described in Section 8 of the law, where categories of unfair labor practices are made clear.
Unfair Labor Practices in Section 8
The NLRA strictly prohibits employers from the following activities in Section 8, paragraphs 1-5:
- Interfering with employees as they engage in concerted activity
- Discriminating against an employee to discourage membership in a union
- Refusing to bargain collectively with a representative of the employees
- Interfering with the formation or administration of a union
- Discriminating against a worker because they have filed unfair labor practice charges
Violations of these provisions are known as Unfair Labor Practices. Such violations are unfortunately common in the workplace, so it is essential to be equipped to spot them when they occur. Such employer actions can warrant a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the organization which enforces the NLRA.
Examples of Employer Interference with Workers' Rights
Here are some examples of when your employer would be violating your rights protected in the NLRA.
- Giving employees benefits during a union drive to encourage their vote against forming a union
- Threatening employees with consequences if they support or participate in a union
- Prohibiting employees from talking about a union during working hours
- Spying on employees' union efforts — something out of the ordinary to observe union activity
- Firing employees who participate in concerted activity
- Preventing employees from wearing union symbols like t-shirts, hats, buttons
- Interviewing works to build a case against unfair labor practices
There are many examples of unfair labor practices, further described on the NLRB website. It is important to know your legally protected rights, since many people are unaware of the power they have in the workplace.
How to better protect your rights
With a better understanding of your labor rights, the next step is to educate yourself on combating unfair labor practices in the workplace. Greater knowledge of your rights can lead to higher levels of economic and social equity in the workplace. Get started today!