New Bill Would Greatly Expand Penalties, Remedies for Unfair Labor Practices

By Eric B. Meyer

It’s seen by some as making labor organizing akin to a civil right.

“Woo hoo!” said none of you.

On Wednesday, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., top members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, introduced the Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act.

Big new penalties on employers

According to this fact sheet, the WAGE Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) increasing penalties on employers for unfair labor practices; namely:

  • Tripling the back pay that employers must pay to workers who are fired or retaliated against by their employers, regardless of immigration status.
  • Providing workers with a private right of action to bring suit to recover monetary damages and attorneys’ fees in federal district court, just as they can under civil rights laws.
  • Providing for federal court injunctions to immediately return fired workers to their jobs.
  • Ensuring employers will be jointly responsible for violations affecting workers supplied by another employer.

If enacted, the WAGE Act would also expose corporate officers to personal liability for violations of the NLRA.

For more on the WAGE Act check out this from the AFL-CIO, this from The Guardian, and this from Littler Mendelson.

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Bill might stifle employer efforts to oppose unions

Union membership in the private sector is 6.6 percent. For many, the decline in union membership has more to do with the perceived lack of value in union membership versus efforts corporate efforts to hamper union growth.

Indeed, only 37 percent of American adults want unions to have more power. While companies are well within their rights to tout the benefit of union-free workplace, this game-changing bill, if passed, may stifle those efforts.

However, with Republican control of both the House and Senate, the odds of the WAGE Act becoming law are extremely low.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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