Union Protections for Non-Union Employees

Q: I handle HR for a small, non-union company. I am vaguely aware of union laws protecting non-union employees. What’s an example of something I should know?

A: Outside the union context, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) also protects non-union employees engaged in “protected concerted activity” intended to improve wages, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment. Employees do not have to be involved in union-related activity to be protected under the NLRA.

For activity to come under the NLRA’s protection, the non-union employee must have acted together with other employees. Discussions between non-union employees about wages or safety conditions, for example, are protected under the NLRA. An employee who acts alone but on behalf of others regarding a term of employment is also protected, but individual gripes or complaints are not.

Employers must be extremely cautious when determining whether to discipline employees for social media activity, as it may constitute protected activity. Non-union employees may be protected under the NLRA if their social media post addresses terms and conditions of employment. Employers may argue against the protected aspect of the social media post by showing that it was malicious, reckless, or false.

MSEC has current, NLRA-compliant social media policies for you to use, and our Labor Relations attorneys can answer any questions regarding protected concerted activity.

These materials are general in nature not to be construed as the rendering of legal or management advice. Send your questions to cgraves@msec.org. Please tell us if you would prefer your identity not be mentioned in our answer.