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Workplace Assault Results in NLRA Violation


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By Sean McLean

A non-union general contractor at a construction site posted a sign on his trailer prohibiting any solicitation without an appointment in order to prevent interruption of his work.  Nevertheless, two union representatives of a subcontractor working at the site entered the general contractor’s trailer without an appointment to solicit additional work for employees of union contractors.  The general contractor loudly and profanely demanded that the union representatives leave his trailer.  As the second union representative reached the doorway to exit the trailer, the general contractor pushed him from behind, causing the union representative to fall down the trailer’s metal steps, striking his hand and neck on the railing of the trailer stairs.  The union representative sought treatment at a clinic later that day for severe musculoskeletal pain.  Afterwards, the union representative never again worked for the union in any capacity.

Administrative Law Judge’s Findings
The union representative subsequently filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that the assault constituted employer interference, restraint, or coercion directed against union or collective activity in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act).  However, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) dismissed the union representative’s action, noting that the union representative had no right, contractual or otherwise, to be on the construction site.  While the general contractor’s actions were repugnant and inexcusable, and while they may have transgressed civil or criminal laws, the ALJ found that these actions did not violate the Act.

National Labor Relations Board Determination
On appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the NLRB disagreed with the ALJ’s determination.  The NLRB noted that the Act is designed to protect actions by unions in furtherance of   protecting the economic terms of employment enjoyed by the employees they represent.  This protection  extends to  the union’s agents as well.  Here, the union representatives entered the general contractor’s trailer for the purpose of soliciting additional work for employees of contractors who already had existing  collective-bargaining relationships with the union.  This objective of expanding employment opportunities for represented employees plainly seeks to further legitimate goals of union or collective activity under the Act.  
Accordingly, the NLRB found a violation of the Act resulted from the interference with union or collective  activity by, among other things, harassing or physically assaulting union agents engaged in such activity.  Therefore, the union representative was awarded reimbursement for his medical expenses and lost pay and benefits.

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