NEW YORK NURSE: June 2011
I would like to be involved in organizing new nurses at my facility. Can I participate in this kind of activity?
Employees have the right to engage in protected concerted activity. An employer who decides to discipline or terminate an employee who exerts this right is breaking the law.
Protected concerted activity occurs whenever two or more employees express concern about working conditions in a nonviolent way. It is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The activity does not have to occur in conjunction with union organizing – although this is the most common situation. It just has to fall under the rubric of taking “concerted action” for “mutual aid and protection” when employees are acting to improve areas such as working conditions, hiring practices, employee discipline, or work assignments.
Employees may have discussions about wages and benefits. The signing of a petition by a group of employees for better wages and benefits – with a single employee acting as spokesperson for that group and bringing it to management’s attention – would likely be protected activity.
Employer policies or an informal practice that prohibits discussion about compensation should be avoided, and those that are currently in place need to be discontinued.
Employers can be held accountable for retaliating against employees who engage in protected concerted activity. According to Section 8 of the NLRA: “It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the NLRA.”
An employer that has committed this type of violation may be required to reinstate employees who have been discharged with full back pay and interest. The employer also may be required to post the violation and the remedy for all employees to see.
For more information, visit: nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect.
The NYSNA EGW Program receives many inquiries each month from members who have problems in their workplaces. If you have a question about labor relations at your facility, contact your NYSNA nursing representative. If you have a question you think should be featured in this column, send it to: RNs at Work, NYSNA, 120 Wall Street, 23rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10005.