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Employee Rights

Employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act are afforded certain rights to join together to improve their wages and working conditions, with or without a union.

Union Activity

Employees have the right to attempt to form a union where none currently exists, or to decertify a union that has lost the support of employees.

Examples of employee rights include:

  • Forming, or attempting to form, a union in your workplace;
  • Joining a union whether the union is recognized by your employer or not;
  • Assisting a union in organizing your fellow employees;
  • Refusing to do any or all of these things.
  • To be fairly represented by a union

Activity Outside a Union

Employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA.  Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “concerted activity”,  which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment.  A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.

A few examples of protected concerted activities are:

  • Two or more employees addressing their employer about improving their pay.
  • Two or more employees discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other.
  • An employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.

More information, including descriptions of actual concerted activity cases, is available on the protected concerted activity page.

Who is covered?

Most employees in the private sector are covered by the NLRA. However, the Act specifically excludes individuals who are:

  • employed by Federal, state, or local government
  • employed as agricultural laborers
  • employed in the domestic service of any person or family in a home
  • employed by a parent or spouse
  • employed as an independent contractor
  • employed as a supervisor (supervisors who have been discriminated against for refusing to violate the NLRA may be covered)
  • employed by an employer subject to the Railway Labor Act, such as railroads and airlines
  • employed by any other person who is not an employer as defined in the NLRA

More information is available on the jurisdictional standards page.

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