How can you enforce your rights under U.S. labor law?

Workers in New York and across the U.S. have always been vulnerable to the whims of ownership and management. Union representation has provided layers of protection to workers to keep them from being underpaid, overworked, deprived of rights they are legally entitled to and much more. However, there are still times when employers will try to stop workers from exercising certain rights or will violate those rights. Unions themselves sometimes commit violations. It is in these situations that workers need to be aware of how the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, can help.

If there is a belief that an individual's rights or the rights of others were violated, it is wise to contact the NLRB. This is a strategy to protect those rights. It must be done within six months of the unlawful activity having occurred. It is not necessary for a worker to go to the union to contact the NLRB, nor does the employee need to go to the employer or anyone else. There are also times when the union is not living up to its mandate. This too is a justifiable reason to contact the NLRB.

To initiate an investigation, a charge against an employer or union must be filed. The charges can be filed by anyone and do not need to be filed by the employee who was victimized. An employer or a union have no legal right to retaliate against an employee for filing charges or taking part in NLRB investigations or cases. If the NLRB finds that a person's rights were violated, there could be an award. An example might be an unjust dismissal in which the employee will be able to have the job back, get lost wages and other benefits. If the union commits violations, the NLRB can order the union to get the worker reinstated and help get pay that was lost.

The idea is for the NLRB to fix what was wrong and to get the employer and union to stop committing the violations. Workers who have experienced violations from an employer or a union should be aware of their rights and how the National Labor Relations Board provides protection.

Source: nlrb.gov, "How to Enforce Your Rights," accessed on Aug. 15, 2017

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