Unfair Labor Practices
Labor & Employment Law
Unfair Labor Practices
Sass Law Firm represents employees in unfair labor practices at all stages from intake to litigation.
What is an unfair labor practice?
An unfair labor practice (ULP) is conduct by your employer or labor union that violates certain employee rights protected by federal and/or state law.
The National Labor Relations Act is a federal law that prohibits most private sector employers and labor organizations (i.e. unions) from engaging in unfair labor practices against non-supervisory employees or its members. Simply, the NLRA affords non-supervisory employees’ rights to unionize and join together to improve their working conditions. The law applies to most private sector employees even in the absence of a union.
In Florida, the Public Employee Relations Act protects most state, county and local government employees from unfair labor practices by their governmental employer or union. PERA affords government employees in Florida similar rights to unionize and join together to improve working conditions.
Examples of unfair labor practices:
An employer commits an unfair labor practice when the employer does any of the following:
- Interferes or restrains employee rights to unionize or engage in acts considered protected concerted activity. Protected concerted activity is conduct between two or more employees for the mutual aid and benefit of the workers.
► Illegal interference by the employer can include employers maintaining overbroad policies that chill employee rights to engage in protected concerted activities.
- Refuses to bargain collectively with the union.
- Retaliates against an employee for filing an unfair labor practice claim against the employer.
- Discriminates based on an employee’s union or non-union membership.
What are examples of protected concerted activity?
Protected concerted activity includes, but is not limited to:
- Participation by an employee in collective bargaining;
- Discussing wages with co-workers, including improving pay for workers; and
- Discussing working conditions with co-workers.
Protected concerted activity does not have to be done in writing. In fact, most protected concerted activity takes place verbally, in conversations with your workmates. Additionally, relevant conversations or activity on social media, such as Facebook® or Twitter, may be considered “concerted activity”.
However, protected concerted activity loses its protection if the conduct is unlawful or creates a threat of disruption in the workplace.
Can I be fired for trying to start a union?
No. It is an unfair labor practice for an employer to take adverse action against an employee who tries to legally unionize the workforce.
What can I do if my union does not help me?
Since violations of the NLRA and the PERA are not limited only to employers, unfair labor practice claims may be brought against a union or its agents as well. These claims against unions include:
- Not negotiating in good faith with an employer;
- Calling for or supporting a strike or any work slowdown;
- Forcing an employee to participate in practices that violate the collective bargaining agreement; or
- Not fairly representing an employee in the bargaining unit.
Do I have to pay union dues to be part of the union?
The Florida Constitution guarantees the “right to work”, and a union or an employer cannot force you to pay union dues as a condition of your employment. So, even if you do not pay union dues, as long as you are part of the bargaining unit, you are protected by the union contract (collective bargaining agreement) negotiated between the union and your employer.
What damages are available for unfair labor practices?
If you work for a private employer and the employer committed an unfair labor practice, you may file a ULP claim with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is the agency that oversees NLRA claims.
If the NLRB finds a violation, the NLRB can award reinstatement to employment with back pay and benefits, and other remedies, such as requiring the employer to post a notice in the workplace advising employees of their NLRA rights and promising not to violate the law.
Similarly, if you are a public employee in Florida with claims under the PERA, you can file a ULP claim with Florida’s Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC). A prevailing employee may recover reinstatement to employment, back pay and attorneys’ fees.
How long do I have to file a ULP?
Strict time deadlines apply. Both the NLRA and PERA require ULP claims to be filed within six months of the unfair labor practice.
If you think you have an unfair labor practice claim, schedule a consultation with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation and legal options.