Duff: “Worker Protection Bill”, NLRA and Worker Safety | Workers’ Compensation News


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Through Michael C. Duff

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 | 0

While this is not directly related to workers’ compensation, following tornado-related worker deaths in Illinois and Kentucky, a number of news articles have discussed the need for a kind of worker protection law.

Michael C. Duff

But as I told David Sirota recently, there is already such a law. This is called the National Labor Relations Act.

Section 7 of the NLRA protects the rights of employees to engage in concerted demonstrations, including concerted work stoppages, against what employees regard as unsafe or unsanitary working conditions. Section 502 of the NLRA, as amended by the Industrial Relations Act (LMRA), states that termination of work by one or more employees, in good faith, due to unusually hazardous working conditions at their place of employment work is not considered a strike. .

It should be noted that employees, not unions, have these rights, although the statutory context of section 502 assumes union representation. The difference between the two articles is that under Article 502, unionized employees working under a collective agreement with a “no-strike clause” must have an “objectively reasonable” basis for leaving work for security reasons.

If they have an objectively reasonable basis, their action is not a strike, and therefore they have not violated their contractual non-strike clause (which could lead to legal liability). Non-unionized employees leaving work in a concerted manner for safety reasons need only believe in good faith that they are in danger.

Ironically, unionized employees may be more likely to be guessed in safety-related decisions than non-unionized employees. The main cause of what I have just stated is Labor Board v. Washington Aluminum Co. (1962).

Isn’t it strange that not many people know that the NLRA applies to all employees (not just unionized employees) engaging in “protected concerted” activities? The scope of Section 7 of the NLRA is enormous. We already have a worker protection law.

Employees have six months to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

I should also mention in passing an interesting recurring question in workers’ compensation cases. Employers (and their carriers) who resist workers’ compensation claims in such situations may face tort lawsuits. If time brings down Amazon’s warehouse because it was negligently designed or built, workers’ compensation exclusivity (which grants tort immunity) may be an employer’s best friend. Be careful what you are arguing about.

Michael C. Duff is Professor of Law at the University of Wyoming School of Law. This entry is republished from the Workers Compensation Law Faculty Blog, with permission.

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