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You can land in trouble for trying to stop harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: Can you encourage employees to report on-the-job harassment from union organizers?

Risk: Your efforts may be viewed as an illegal union-busting activity.

Action: Avoid at-work union organizing issues by banning all solicitations at work.

You know what they say about good intentions. Well, that's often true in your efforts to stop harassment in the workplace, too.

As the following case shows, if your anti-harassment practices are seen as an attempt to squash a union-organizing bid, your organization could be slapped with an unfair-labor-practice charge.

Recent case: After a union organizer met with employees at a manufacturing plant, company officials took their turn to speak to the employees, expressing their opinions about unionization. At the end of the speech, employees were asked to report if they were "threatened or harassed about signing a union card."

The union filed an unfair-labor-practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), claiming the company illegally encouraged employees to tell management about co-workers' union activities.

The NLRB ruled in favor of the union, and a federal court agreed. Reason: The employer's speech had nothing to do with the kind of harassment for which an employer might be liable under discrimination laws. Instead, it focused on encouraging employees to report the protected activity of union solicitation. (Bloomington-Normal Seating Co. v. NLRB, Nos. 03-2929, 03-3101, 7th Cir., 2004)

Final thoughts: Don't let this case silence you when a union moves in. You don't have to tolerate organizers' harassing and abusive tactics.

One way to prevent on-the-job union harassment: Adopt a legal solicitation policy that prohibits all solicitation and distribution of nonwork literature at the workplace.

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