As many of my loyal blog readers know, I am labor counsel to the Ohio Grocers Association. Although this case deals with a grocery store, the law applies to all companies in all industries.
Albertson’s grocery store violated labor law by soliciting grievances from a store cashier during a union organizing drive even though the cashier did not express any complaints or demands in response to the solicitation. This is a huge reversal of law that had been around since 1984 requiring the employee to actually complain in response to a solicitation before the solicitation became unlawful. Take away: it doesn’t matter if the employee answers, companies violate the law by just asking the question.
Albertson’s conducted one-on-one meetings with employees during a union organizing drive. Employee Perea was summoned by her supervisor to attend a meeting with Albertson’s labor relations director. Before the meeting, Perea’s supervisor told her:
HR’s up there; they’re your friends, not ours. If you have any problems with your schedule or if you guys want to complain, now is the time.
In the meeting with Perea and the labor relations director was the store’s general manager. The labor relations director said it was open season for health insurance enrollments and asked if she had any questions about the insurance or any other concerns. Perea remained silent but later told the Board that she would not have felt comfortable airing complaints with her store manager in the room.
According to new Board law, this one-on-one meeting where employee Perea remained silent was an unlawful solicitation of grievances that violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act.
Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm with offices in central and northeast Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. Austin Legal’s Concierge Legal Services program is relied upon by companies to remain compliant and competitive. If you have employees, you need Concierge Legal Services. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Austin@LaborEmploymentOSHA.com.