NLRB Region 13-Chicago Obtains Consequential Damages, Letters of Apologies, Notice Reading in Settlement Agreement
Chicago, IL—On January 18, 2022, Region 13-Chicago of the National Labor Relations Board finalized a settlement providing backpay, consequential damages, letters of apologies, and a remedial notice reading to workers at American Backflow & Fire Prevention, Inc. in Wauconda, Illinois who were victims of unfair labor practices. The settlement involved a series of unfair labor practice charges filed against American Backflow in the context of their employees’ union organizing campaign and subsequent strike with the Sprinkler Fitters Local 281 and Plumbers Local 130 of United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. On June 22, 2021, the Union was certified as the employees’ bargaining representative in an NLRB election. The employees engaged in an unfair labor practice strike during July and August 2021 that stemmed from the unlawful termination of an employee who supported the union.
After an extensive investigation, the Acting Regional Director found merit to the allegations that the Employer violated Sections 8(a)(1), (3) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act and issued a consolidated complaint on October 15, 2021. The complaint alleged that the Employer violated the Act in various ways, including: interrogating employees about their union activities and the union activities of their coworkers; threatening employees with discharge, plant closure, job loss, not hiring union supporters, and withholding employee benefits, because of their support for the union; threatening employees that it would not recognize or bargain with the union; promising employees raises and improved working conditions if they rejected the union; retaliating against and discharging employees in retaliation for their protected concerted and/or union activities; and failing to provide the union with information that is relevant to its role as bargaining representative.
After issuing the complaint, pursuant to the filing of additional unfair labor practice charges, the Acting Regional Director found that the Employer committed further violations of the Act by: increasing its monitoring of employees’ driving speeds and issuing warnings in retaliation for employees’ union activities; installing surveillance cameras and threatening employees that the cameras were installed to watch union supporters; refusing to reinstate employees after the strike; discharging an additional employee in violation of the Act; issuing wage increases to employees who opposed the union but not to union supporters; and surveilling employees and creating the impression that their union activities were being surveilled.
The bilateral settlement agreement obtained by the Region includes several remedies that General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo directed Regions to seek in GC 21-07, Full Remedies in Settlement Agreements. In addition to a full remedy and notice posting, the settlement provides that:
- A management official will read the Notice to Employees in the presence of employees, a Board agent, and a union representative.
- The Employer will email the Notice to current employees and former employees who worked within the 12-month period prior to the approval of the settlement agreement.
- In order to counter the unlawful issuance of wage increases to employees who opposed the union, the Employer will pay backpay to several employees who were unlawfully not granted these raises.
- For the employees who were unlawfully discharged, in addition to paying them backpay, the Employer will also pay consequential damages to employees who suffered financial hardship as a result to their unlawful discharge.
- The Employer will draft and issue letters of apology to the two employees who were unlawfully discharged.
- The Employer agreed to default language to ensure expedited issuance of Board Orders in the event of their non-compliance.
“The employer committed egregious violations of the National Labor Relation Act in response to employees exercising their legal rights to concerted activity and unionization,” said Acting Regional Director Paul Hitterman. “I am proud of Region 13’s staff for negotiating a settlement agreement that truly makes these workers whole for the harm they have experienced.”
Established in 1935, the National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that protects employees, employers, and unions from unfair labor practices and protects the right of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. The NLRB conducts hundreds of workplace elections and investigates thousands of unfair labor practice charges each year. Region 13 serves areas in Illinois and Indiana from its Regional Office in Chicago.