Important April 30 Changes in National Labor Relations Act Regulations

NOTE:  Some changes have occurred since this entry was originally posted.  Please see new post from April 18, 2012 for an update.

On April 30, 2012, a number of major changes to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) regulations will take effect and businesses, especially those that are not unionized, should take heed.  While many employers view the NLRA as a “traditional” labor law that is  not applicable to private, non-union entities,  almost all employers engaged in interstate commerce are subject to the NLRA. 

Two of these changes (effective April 30) are of particular note:

  1. Posting of Notices:  As of April 30, 2012, all employers must post the Notice of Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act (English).  For now, failure to comply with the posting requirement does not automatically result in an unfair labor practice, as the regulation was originally drafted, but it is likely that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)will draw an adverse inference from an employer’s failure to post.  The posters must be 11 x 17 inches in size and posted in English and any other language which at least 20% of the workforce speaks, if they are not proficient in English.  The English version is available at the link above, and the Spanish version is available here.  For companies employing remote workers, paper copies of the Notice should be sent to employees with instructions that they read it and provide confirmation that they have done so.
  2. Accelerated Time-frame for Union Elections:  The new NLRA regulations eliminate any pre-election challenges, and as a result, the average waiting time between the filing of the union petition (which is often the employer’s first notice that an organizing drive is afoot) and election day drastically drops from about 38 days to as little as 10 days.  To put that in perspective, it often takes several days from the union’s filing of a representation petition for management to coordinate its response.  Accordingly, it is more important than ever for companies to make sure they are prepared to address a union campaign well in advance of any filing.

These April 30 changes may appear minor, but combined with the trend of the NLRB towards recognizing smaller groups of workers as units for union purposes, so-called “micro-units” (See Wheeling Island Gaming, Inc. and Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation of Mobile), employers could see a dramatic increase in union activity in very short order.

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