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Organized labor at your doorstep? Don’t grill employees about their union support

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Unions are flourishing during the current economic crisis, slowly emerging after decades of decline. Chances are, more and more of your employees are being courted by unions, whether your organization is currently a union workplace or not.

Now's the time to educate yourself on what you can and cannot do to discourage union membership.

One thing you clearly cannot do is interrogate employees about their support for unions or a specific union course of action. And it isn’t just supervisors who can’t question employees—it’s anyone acting as an agent for the employer.

Practically speaking, if management suggests that some employees interrogate others about their support for a union, your company may be committing an unfair labor practice.

Recent case: When employees at Special Touch Home Health Care were preparing to vote on union representation, several of their work coordinators began asking questions to see whether they supported the move. Twice, coordinators asked workers whether a package of union information had arrived and suggested that they could help the employees vote “no” to unionization.

The union sued, alleging an unfair labor practice.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the National Labor Relations Board that the “interrogations” amounted to an unfair labor practice, even though the coordinators technically weren’t managers or supervisors. The court said they were still acting on behalf of the employer. (NLRB v. Special Touch Home Health Care, No. 07-5422, 2nd Cir., 2009)

Final note: Always get expert legal assistance when a union shows up.

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