A company held employee meetings every Friday. No big deal. However, at the meeting held six days before a union election, the company, for the first time, gave the employees pizza, large bonus checks and/or gift cards. The company won the election causing the union to file objections alleging improper interference by the company. The Board, rightly, sided with the union and the election results were set aside.
Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act states that “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.” Benefits granted to employees during the critical period before an election are inferred to be improper. However, employers can overcome this inference by explaining that something other than the pending election triggered the benefit, i.e. an established past practice or prior promise. Since this was the first time the company provided pizza or gave out bonuses or gift cards of a large amount, the company did not overcome the negative inference.
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.