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What rights do employees have under the National Labor Relations Act?

Previously, we looked at a recent memorandum written by the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board which opined that some college athletes may be considered employees having rights under the National Labor Relations Act. This federal law recognizes the right of employees to organize in order to seek improved working conditions and wages, and to forms unions to negotiate such matters with employers.

The National Labor Relations Act allows employees not only to form unions, join unions, and to be fairly represented by a union, but also to opt out of unionization. Employees who choose not to be represented by a union have the right to organize for their own benefit with respect to working conditions and pay. 

Most private sector employees are covered by the National Labor Relations. A number of categories of employees are excluded, though. This includes: employees of federal, state, or local governments; those employed as independent contractors; those employed by a parent or spouse, or for any person or family in a home; and those employed as agricultural laborers. Individuals employed as supervisors are also not covered by the National Labor Relations Act, unless they have been discriminated against for refusing to violate the law.

Further, the National Labor Relations Board only has jurisdiction over employers who generate more than a minimum level of revenue or business.

Employees who are covered by the National Labor Relations Act should certainly be aware of their rights under the law and should work with an experienced attorney to protect those rights. They should also be aware of the other protections they enjoy under federal law, since all these protections work together. By the same token, businesses can benefit from working with an experienced attorney to protect their rights and interests in negotiating with unionized employees and to ensure effective compliance with federal employment laws. 

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