Protecting Your Business from Unfair Labour Practices: Tips for Employers

By Samrat Pradhan, Correspondent Friday, 05 May 2023

An unfair labor practice is a violation of the National Labour Relations Act (NLRA) by an employer or a union.The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has created an extensive listing of employer actions that it considers would unduly interfere with an individual employee's labor rights. Under the NLRA, employers are forbidden from engaging in five types of unfair labor practices:

To begin with, an employer may not interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in exercising their rights. Supervisors who (a) make threatening statements, (b) challenge employees who exercise their labor rights, or (c) make false claims to workers seeking unionization are most likely to violate this clause. Second, an employer may not attempt to dominate or interfere with the establishment or administration of any labor organization, nor may he provide financial or other support to such an organization. Finally, an employer may not discriminate against an employee in hiring, tenure, or any other term or condition of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization. Fourthly, an employer cannot fire or otherwise discriminate against an employee based on the fact that he or she has filed charges or given testimony. Finally, an employer violates the NLRA if it (a) refuses to bargain collectively with employee representatives, (b) refuses to recognise a majority union, (c) takes unilateral actions, (d) refuses to provide necessary information to union representatives, (e) refuses to sign a written contract once an agreement is reached, or (e) imposes conditions on its willingness to bargain.

Overcoming These Hurdles

Workplaces can be exciting and fulfilling places to work, and managers and supervisors can be good mentors for employees who want to develop in their careers. There are, however, numerous incidents of senior executives misusing their positions of authority, discriminating against, and mistreating subordinates.

It is recommended that any problem be resolved through inside business structures first. Approaching a manager or supervisor, or setting up a meeting with the Human Resources department, could be examples of this. It is critical to formalize a complaint in writing so that you have confirmation that the issue was raised.

If all internal business procedures have been exhausted, the case must be referred to the relevant bargaining council, and if there is no council, the case must be referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA). Unfair labor practises must be reported to the CCMA within 90 days of the alleged violation.

Some remedies for unfair labor practices may include, injunctive or interim injunctive relief, Back pay (e.g., wages, benefits, etc.), Reinstatement to an employee’s former position, Monetary damages (depending on the type of claim), and / or Expungement of an employee record (e.g., for wrongful termination, etc.).

To serve and file the CCMA referral form, for instance, according to the South African Labour Guide, the completed CCMA referral form must first be sent to the other party. This can be done by handing a copy of the form to the other party; by faxing the form to the other party; or by sending a copy of the form to the address of the other party by registered mail.

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