Long-overdue updates come to the NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has held the authority to enforce the National Labor Relations Act since 1935, and little has changed since that time. Unscrupulous employers were breaking the law then, and they’re still union busting today. But we’ve seen the Board’s ability to effectively enforce the Act weaken as the nature of work changed and employer tactics became more sophisticated.

Fortunately, in a pair of decisions made public yesterday, the NLRB issued long-needed updates to two remedial mechanisms—electronic notice posting of unfair labor practices and compound daily interest on back pay. Both remedies are routinely used in cases where the NLRB finds that a party violated the National Labor Relations Act.

In J & R Flooring Inc., the Board mandated that employers and unions must utilize e-mail or other electronic communications tools to post notices of unfair labor practices if they frequently correspond with employees through those channels. After all, employers don’t use the aging bulletin board in the hallway to keep employees aware of other timely issues—like mandated overtime on Saturday. They use email or other electronic mediums. It only makes sense that lawbreaking employers should use these very same communications tools to let their workers know when they’ve violated the National Labor Relations Act.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky River Medical Center, a unanimous Board ordered that interest paid by lawbreaking employers on back pay and monetary awards now be compounded daily—rather than determined by calculating simple interest. In cases where employees are unlawfully fired or otherwise denied pay, workers whose rights were violated will now be compensated more fairly. That also means greater financial consequences for employers who chose to take the low road. Money talks, and if it costs more to unlawfully withhold pay from workers, employers will think twice about doing it.

For a Board dealing with a law that is painfully out of sync with today’s workplaces, these simple improvements are an encouraging step in the right direction.  When it comes to keeping our workplaces running smoothly, there’s no question that regular updates to technology are essential—and the same holds true for the enforcement of our nation’s labor law.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 at 5:33 pm and is filed under Eye on the NLRB. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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