What does a unionized employee do if their employer or union commits unfair labor practices?

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act, the primary law governing relations between unions and employers in the private sector. The statute guarantees the right of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers or to refrain from all such activity. Generally applying to all employers involved in interstate commerce--other than airlines, railroads, agriculture, and government--the Act implements the national labor policy of assuring free choice and encouraging collective bargaining as a means of maintaining industrial peace. Through the years, Congress has amended the Act and the Board and courts have developed a body of law drawn from the statute.

One of the NLRB's two principal functions is to prevent and remedy unlawful acts, called unfair labor practices, by either employers or unions. It processes charges of unfair labor practices that are filed with the NLRB in one of its 51 Regional, Subregional, or Resident Offices.

When an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge is filed, the appropriate field office conducts an investigation to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the Act has been violated. If the Regional Director determines that the charge lacks merit, it will be dismissed unless the charging party decides to withdraw the charge. A dismissal may be appealed to the General Counsel's office in Washington, D.C.

If the Regional Director finds reasonable cause to believe a violation of the law has been committed, the region seeks a voluntary settlement to remedy the alleged violations. If these settlement efforts fail, a formal complaint is issued and the case goes to hearing before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge. The judge issues a written decision that may be appealed to the five- Member Board in Washington for a final agency determination. The Board's decision is subject to review in a U.S. Court of Appeals. Depending upon the nature of the case, the General Counsel's goal is to complete investigations and, where further proceedings are warranted, issue complaints if settlement is not reached within 7 to 15 weeks from the filing of the charge. Of the total ULP charges filed each year, approximately one-third are found to have merit of which over 90% are settled.

Visit the National Labor Relations Board website to learn more about filing a complaint.

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