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Beware applicants who are really union organizers

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

If your company isn’t a union employer, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the National Labor Relations Act. Chances are, someone wants to make your company a union workplace and will try to trick you into becoming one. In fact, one of your job applicants may be that wolf in sheep’s clothing. He or she will lie to get a job—and then call in the union organizers.

But you can’t afford to react angrily or fire those you suspect may be scheming to unionize your workplace.

If you don’t want to be on the other side of an unfair labor practice charge, learn some lessons from the following case on how not to handle clandestine union drives.

Recent case: Leiser Construction is a privately owned, nonunion commercial construction company that found itself in the cross hairs of an attempt to unionize its workforce. Lloyd Leiser and his wife own and operate the company.

Several union organizers managed to get jobs at Leiser by hiding their union affiliation and work experience. The first applicant, David Coleman, filled out a job application that didn’t list his union affiliation or any prior union employment. He omitted information about 12 years of union experience and fabricated two employers.

Leiser hired Coleman without checking his references (which would have revealed they were fake). Coleman and Leiser got along well, and it seemed Leiser liked Coleman. During one lunch with Leiser, which Coleman secretly recorded, Coleman admitted he was an “organizer man” and asked if that meant he would lose his job. Leiser responded, “Yep, enjoy, [it was] good while it lasted.”

Other union members who managed to be hired didn’t fare any better. One claimed Leiser threatened him by saying there was an employee on one work site who would probably kill him for being a union member. Leiser declined to hire two other applicants, who did list their union membership and experience on their applications.

After the men filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, the board ruled that Leiser’s actions amounted to unfair labor practices.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that conclusion. It didn’t matter that the union members—known in the organized labor movement as “salts”—lied to be hired. What mattered was that they were terminated or threatened after Leiser found out about their union activities.

Plus, the applicants who did list their union membership clearly were qualified for the positions they sought; yet the company hired other applicants and ignored the union members’ applications. (Leiser Construction v. NLRB, No. 07-9519, 10th Cir., 2008)

Final note: The applicants and discharged union members are now eligible for back pay.

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