A company that sells and services air conditioning systems has a collective bargaining agreement that contains provisions governing workers’ use of company vehicles. The company wanted to change its vehicle policy to mirror that of its parent company. The company informed the union that it intended to implement this revised policy, and the union responded that it would not negotiate a new policy on vehicle use until the parties negotiated their next collective bargaining agreement. The company went ahead and implemented the policy, which included a procedure for obtaining employee driving records from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The company obtained employees’ electronic authorization to get the driving records, but it did not inform the union that it was doing so.
The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company, which resulted in several findings against the company. The administrative law judge (ALJ) concluded that the company violated the NLRA by 1) implementing the new vehicle use policy without bargaining with the union, 2) obtaining the authorizations from the employees, and 3) disciplining an employee under the new policy.
The new policy constituted a policy change without bargaining and the company engaged in “direct dealing” with the workers when it sought the authorizations for driving records. Because the company unlawfully imposed the policy on the union employees, any discipline under that policy violated the National Labor Relations Act. This has become commonplace lately – unionized companies unilaterally changing policies to be consistent with what governs non-union employees. This is not permitted. Companies must be sure that policy changes that affect a term or condition of employment and will apply to union workers are bargained before implementing such changes.
Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.