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The Weakest Federal Employment Law
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Written by Erin Johansson   
November 24, 2008

If I were a scurrilous lawyer advising a new employer on federal employment laws, I would tell them not to worry about violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). When an employer violates any of the three major federal employment laws covering minimum wage, discrimination, or safety, they must at least pay fines or damages. Yet there are no penalties assessed on employers who commit unfair labor practices under the NLRA. Check out this new chart released by American Rights at Work, which illustrates just how poorly the costs of violating labor law compare with the costs of violating other employment laws:

Federal Employment Laws

 

In 2007, FedEx Corp. settled a discrimination suit for $55 million. While such a high settlement is rare, the media attention it generates likely serves as an effective deterrent against violating discrimination laws. Indeed, the costs of violating most federal employment laws are significant enough to support the existence of employment practices liability insurance. One law firm advised employers to purchase such insurance to protect against the potential costs of litigation, yet it noted that policies typically exclude claims arising from violations of the NLRA since they are “considered to be risks that companies are better able to control.”

Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would go a long way toward addressing the insufficient remedies under the NLRA. The legislation triples the back pay award, provides for civil fines of up to $20,000, and mandates that the NLRB pursue injunctive relief if it has reason to believe an employer has committed a significant violation of the law.

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a federal agency responsible for protecting workers’ rights to form unions and promoting collective bargaining.

 

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About the Author

Erin Johansson Erin Johansson writes our Eye on the NLRB blog.  Erin has worked as a Senior Research Associate at American Rights at Work since 2004 and is the author of some of our reports.  

 

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