Much has been made of NFL player protests during the national anthem – with even the President getting into the action.
NFL team owners have been considering punishments (to include dismissals) for players who do not stand during the anthem.
Who has the law on their side – and what can other employers learn from this moment?
Many think that matters of labor law cover only matters of wages and collective bargaining. In fact – in the eyes of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), it covers much more and includes protections for any “concerted activities” that employees engage in to support one another in the workplace, regardless of whether a union is involved.
The NLRB and the courts have defined such “concerted efforts” to include such things as complaining about one’s boss on social media and publically supporting political causes.
To gain protection under federal labor law, three things need to be occur; an employee must be acting in concert with co-workers, they need to be addressing an issue that is pertinent to their job, and they must be using appropriate means to make their “statement” (in other words – they cannot damage property or act violently).
In the case of the NFL, some legal experts claim that kneeling players are simply supporting the rights of fellow players to kneel and still keep their jobs…
Didn’t the league’s contract with the players’ union give the owners the power to prevent these kinds of activities?
According to a number of legal experts – that is unclear.
Why does this matter to non-NFL employers?
Some in the legal community argue that as unionization continues to decline in the U.S., workers will increasingly seek the right to “concerted activity” – an action that could have a profound impact on non-unionized workplaces.
Where is it all heading?
The Supreme Court is now hearing a case that may be decisive in determining how strong a right non-unionized workers have to band together to challenge employers over workplace issues, including wage theft, safety lapses, or in some cases to initiate a form of collective arbitration to force action on key employment issues.
Where is it all headed?
Great question. Stay tuned…
If you’re an employer and confused about how labor law might apply to your workplace, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys have over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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