Good Luck Learning Your Employee Rights

Posted May 17, 2012 in Labor and Employment by Mike Mintz

Anti-worker groups are pressing to make this 11-by-17-inch employee rights poster disappear.

Have you been demoted at work? Discriminated against? Fired? Your boss doesn’t want you to know your legal rights.

Anti-worker groups got a court order saying that businesses don’t have to display the familiar employee rights poster at the office.

The government agency that protects employees — the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) — issued a rule requiring most businesses to put up the posters in break rooms as of April 30. But a federal court in Washington, D.C., issued a temporary injunction stopping it.

Kimberly Freeman Brown, Executive Director of American Rights and supporter of the rule, says, “Studies show that many employees are unaware of their rights under the NLRA, which protects both union and non-union workers. Employers, even those who strive to act lawfully, are similarly uninformed. This modest rule simply helps ensure that everyone knows the rules of the road.”

A large faction of business owners, however, feel otherwise. In a press release from the anti-worker National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Executive Director, Karen Harned called it, “a punitive new rule.”

“Just when we thought we had seen it all from the NLRB, it has reached a new low in its zeal to punish small-business owners,” said Harned. “Not only is the Board blatantly moving beyond its legal authority by issuing this rule, it is unabashedly showing its spite for job creators by setting up a trap for millions of businesses.”

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The new requirement was quickly challenged in court by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) which filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., to block the NLRB “Posting Requirement” rule.

Jay Timmons, CEO and president of NAM, states on the organization’s website, “This rule is just another example of the Board’s aggressive overreach to insert itself into the day-to-day decisions of businesses – exerting powers it doesn’t have.”

The anti-consumer United States Chamber of Commerce also sued against the NLRB in federal court in South Carolina. A judge in South Carolina has also ruled against the poster rule. The ruling is now pending appeal. 

Americanrightsatwork.org, an organizational and outreach group dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers to form unions put a video on YouTube called, “It’s Just a Poster” in an attempt to put the NLRB’s requirement in context.

 

“Given the extreme imbalance the middle class faces in today’s economy, with CEO pay and income inequality at all-time highs, workers’ ability to join together as a union and bargain for a better life is more important than ever. But working Americans can’t exercise these basic rights if they don’t know they have them.” said Ms. Brown.

Indeed, the anger levels between the two sides have gone up and in some cases, double standards seem evident. In just one example that highlights this hypocrisy, the Daily Kos  reported that a Target store in Long Island, NY actually made an anti-unionization video… using union actors.

With the lack of information in the workplace, a sometimes hostile corporate culture that actively work to prevent unionizing (as in the example above) and court rulings that are still pending appeals, how does a worker know when their rights have been violated?

Attorney Frank Pray

Employee rights attorney, Frank Pray gave examples of cases where a worker’s rights are violated include, discrimination, unfairness, and harassment.

“Basic unfairness cases are sometimes proven if the employer followed a long standing policy of fairness that led employees to reasonably expect that fairness would be followed in deciding discipline, demotion, transfer or firing.

“Harassment is proven by many of the same elements as a discrimination case, but the focus is on how severe or pervasive the employer’s distressing conduct may be.”

The full list of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act is available through the NLRB’s website.

Even if employers are eventually required to notify employees of their rights, the ultimate responsibility for knowing and exercising them remains with the employee. Educate yourself and be sure you know your rights, rather than depending on your employer to explain them to you.

Hiring a lawyer to help discover if your rights have been violated by your employer can be empowering at a stressful time in your life and help resolve hostile work situations peacefully and positively.

Visit the Labor and Employment area of Lawyers.com to learn more and to locate an experienced attorney who can help you evaluate your situation.

Do you think employers should be required to inform workers of their rights? Share your opinion by leaving a comment below.

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