Friday, October 12, 2018

NLRB Issues New Standard For Duty Of Fair Representation Charge Defenses

On September 14, 2018 the National Labor Relations Board issued a memo addressing duty of fair representation charges against labor unions. The National Labor Relations Act makes it illegal for labor unions to restrain or coerce employees when they exercise their rights granted to them by the Act. The law states that a labor organization has a duty to fairly represent employees.

The NLRB believes that their past approach to duty of fair representation cases has created
confusion for employees in what duties are owed to them by union representatives. In response, the memo instructed regional directors that unions should be required to show they have procedures or systems in place to track grievances. It was also explained that a union which does not communicate or respond to a complaining member is negligent, and the negligence would be considered arbitrary and willful. The NLRB stated that it will not accept after-the-fact communication as a correction for negligence. 

The position taken by the NLRB is inconsistent with how they have interpreted duty of fair
representation law in the past. The change means that labor organizations can now be subject to charges based on careless or unprofessional actions that had previously been viewed as just plain error. To avoid a negligence charge, labor organizations should evaluate the procedures and case tracking systems they currently have to ensure their timeliness and thoroughness.