National Labor Relations Act of 1935

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Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.

Examples of Rights As An Employee Under the NLRA

  • Forming, or attempting to form, a union among the employees of your employer.
  • Joining a union whether the union is recognized by your employer or not.
  • Assisting a union in organizing your fellow employees.
  • Engaging in protected concerted activities. Generally, "protected concerted activity" is group activity which seeks to modify wages or working conditions.
  • Refusing to do any or all of these things. However, the union and employer, in a State where such agreements are permitted, may enter into a lawful union-security clause requiring employees to pay union dues and fees.
  • The NLRA forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or engaging in protected concerted activities, or refraining from any such activity. Similarly, labor organizations may not restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights.

Examples of Employer Conduct That Violates the NLRA

  • Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
  • Threatening to close the plant if employees select a union to represent them.
  • Questioning employees about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act.
  • Promising benefits to employees to discourage their union support.
  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.
  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they filed unfair labor practice charges or participated in an investigation conducted by NLRB.

Examples of Labor Organization Conduct That Violates the NLRA

  • Threats to employees that they will lose their jobs unless they support the union.
  • Seeking the suspension, discharge or other punishment of an employee for not being a union member even if the employee has paid or offered to pay a lawful initiation fee and periodic fees thereafter.
  • Refusing to process a grievance because an employee has criticized union officials or because an employee is not a member of the union in states where union security clauses are not permitted.
  • Fining employees who have validly resigned from the union for engaging in protected concerted activities following their resignation or for crossing an unlawful picket line.
  • Engaging in picket line misconduct, such as threatening, assaulting, or barring non-strikers from the employer's premises.
  • Striking over issues unrelated to employment terms and conditions or coercively enmeshing neutrals into a labor dispute.
  • The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects non-union and union employees against discrimination based on union-related activity or group action ("protected concerted activity"). However, employers generally can make unilateral decisions about most personnel actions, including discharge -- unless employees are protected by an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, and absent discrimination in violation of civil rights laws.

Workers Excluded from NLRB Coverage

The NLRA does not include coverage for all workers. The Act specifically excludes from its coverage individuals who are:

  • employed as agricultural laborers
  • employed in the domestic service of any person or family in a home
  • employed by a parent or spouse
  • employed as an independent contractor
  • employed as a supervisor (supervisors who have been discriminated against for refusing to violate the NLRA may be covered)
  • employed by an employer subject to the Railway Labor Act, such as railroads and airlines
  • employed by Federal, state, or local government
  • employed by any other person who is not an employer as defined in the NLRA


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Venable LLP: Nonprofits Beware: Your Employees' Blogs, Facebook Posts, and Twitter Tweets May Be Protected by the National Labor Relations Act August 11, 2011 Contrary to Union's Argument, NLRB Finds Jurisdiction Over Nonprofit Corporation Operating Charter School in Chicago THE NONPROFIT HOSPITAL EXEMPTION OF THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT: APPLICATION TO THE UNIVERSITYOPERATED HOSPITAL IN DUKE UNIVERSITY