Unfair Labor Practices

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 What Are Unfair Labor Practices?

Unfair or illegal labor practices refer to any activities performed by an employer that violate federal or state labor laws. Specifically, unfair or illegal labor practices are governed by a federal statute known as the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (“NLRA”). The act is intended to punish employers who violate its provisions as well as serves to protect employees from engaging in legally protected activities. 

For example, if you and your colleagues want to form a union, your employer cannot retaliate against you for participating in either of these activities. This means that your employer will not be able to fire or demote you for exercising rights you are legally entitled to as a worker.

However, the NLRA only protects certain types of workers, which include most workers who are employed in the private sector. The act does not apply to individuals who are employed by the federal, a state, or local government agency. It also does not protect workers in specific industries, such as agriculture. The same standards hold true for employers (i.e., only covers the majority of employers in the private sector). 

The NLRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees simply because they are members of a labor union. In addition, the act established the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), which is a federal agency that is charged with overseeing and enforcing issues involving unfair or illegal labor practices.

Thus, if you wish to file a complaint against an employer for instituting unfair labor practices, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local labor lawyer for further advice on the matter. Such cases typically require that you file a complaint with your local NLRB agency first before any other legal actions can take place.

What Are Some Unfair Labor Practices Examples?

As discussed above, it is illegal for employers to discriminate or retaliate against workers who participate in legally protected activities and are protected by the NLRA. Some examples of different types of unfair labor practices by employers or unfair work practices may include the following:

  • Interfering with the actions of two or more workers when acting in concert to protect certain rights afforded to them under the NLRA;
  • Interfering with the formation or administration of a labor organization or union;
  • Refusing to bargain with the representative of a labor union who is negotiating on behalf of its members (e.g., for specific rights);
  • Discriminating against an employee who has filed a complaint with a local NLRB agency or participated in a union-related activity; and/or
  • Various other matters that disrupt or interfere with the rights of a worker and their course of employment.

Some legal issues that may be associated with unfair labor practices include:

  • Retaliatory discharge;
  • Wrongful or unlawful termination;
  • Breach of terms of collective bargaining agreement or contract;
  • Employment discrimination or harassment; and/or
  • Violation of federal or state labor statutes. 

What Are Some Remedies for Unfair Labor Practice Cases?

Some remedies for unfair labor practices may include:

  • Injunctive or interim injunctive relief;
  • Back pay (e.g., wages, benefits, etc.);
  • Reinstatement to an employee’s former position; 
  • Monetary damages (depending on the type of claim); and/or
  • Expungement of an employee record (e.g., for wrongful termination, etc.).

In addition, an employer that violates the NLRA may be asked by the NLRB to post a notice for a period of 60 days that states that they have been found guilty of unfair labor practices and which provides the rights of employees under the NLRA. If the employer also violates an injunction, then the NLRB may impose civil fines and criminal penalties on the employer.

Lastly, if the NLRB finds that the employer is in contempt of court, then it has the power to impose fines on both the company and the individual employer, as well as a jail sentence. Thus, in some cases, an unfair labor practice may be considered to be a criminal offense. 

How Do I File a Charge Against a Labor Organization or an Employer?

As previously mentioned, the NLRB is the federal agency in charge of enforcing and overseeing matters that concern the NLRA. In order to file an unfair labor practice charge against an employer, an employee must file a complaint with their local NLRB office, which is sometimes called a “regional office.” The filing can take place either in person or online through the NLRB’s website. 

It is important to note that all complaints must be reported within six months of the occurring incident or else the employee could lose the opportunity to seek relief. In some instances, the NLRB or its regional office will permit an employee to extend this deadline. 

In addition, employees must be careful when filling out their paperwork and must follow any procedures properly. If not, then an employee may risk having their claim rejected, further delayed, or not heard at all. 

Once the complaint is filed, then someone at the NLRB or its regional office will open an initial investigation into the employee’s claim.

What Will Happen After the Report Is Filed?

After an employee files a report, the NLRB or one of its designated regional offices will investigate the claim to determine whether further action needs to be taken. An investigation will usually range anywhere from seven to fourteen weeks or longer, depending on the claim. This may include interviewing witnesses and gathering other forms of evidence that pertain to the employee’s claim.

If the investigation reveals that the claim has merit, then the NLRB or its acting regional office will issue a complaint against the employer. The agency may request that the parties try to settle the matter, but if the parties are unable to, then it will schedule a hearing to be held in front of an administrative law judge that is associated with the NLRB.

If the judge for the NLRB determines that the employer is at fault, then they will impose any necessary penalties on the employer and issue the appropriate remedies to the employee. If it does not find that the employer was at fault, then they will close the case. The employee will then be allowed to file an appeal if they are unhappy with the decision.

What Happens If I Do Not Like the Decision?

If an employee does not agree with the NLRB’s decision, then they may be able to file an appeal with a different regulatory body, such as the General Counsel. In some instances, an employee may even be allowed to bring a private lawsuit against their employer in civil court. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Unfair Labor Practice Violations?

Unfair labor practice violations can cause serious problems not only for an employer, but also for its employees since such issues can affect an entire group of workers. Thus, if you need help with filing a complaint or taking other legal action against an employer, then it is strongly recommended that you hire a local labor lawyer immediately for further legal guidance. 

An experienced labor lawyer can assist you in filing a claim and can ensure that you meet all the necessary deadlines for compliance purposes. Your lawyer can also review the facts of your case to make sure that you do not leave out any other important claims you may have that could be relevant to and affect the outcome of your lawsuit. 

In addition, your lawyer can inform you of your legal rights under the applicable laws and can provide legal representation in court or at an administrative hearing. Lastly, if you have any questions that are specific to your claim, your lawyer will be able to answer these as well.


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