What is an Unfair Labor Practice?

Felicia Dye

An unfair labor practice commonly refers to a violation of a body of laws such as the United States' National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA is a body of federal laws that regulate how employers must treat their employees. These laws afford employees numerous rights, such as the right to strike, to form a union, and to work in an environment that is free of discrimination. Any action by an employer that aims to deny, delay, or ignore these rights is an unfair labor practice.

Unfair labor practices can include the way someone is fired from a job.
Unfair labor practices can include the way someone is fired from a job.

History holds many examples of employers taking advantage of their positions. As a result, many employees have found themselves working under circumstances that today would be considered unjust in many countries. For this reason, many countries have found it necessary to implement laws that protect workers and outline employees' rights and employers' obligations. The name of such a body of laws and the terms outlined in them can vary from one country to another.

Unfair labor practices are those that violate laws passed by Congress as part of the National Labor Relations Act.
Unfair labor practices are those that violate laws passed by Congress as part of the National Labor Relations Act.

An unfair labor practice can deal with many aspects of employment. A major part of such legislation is usually devoted to how people are treated while they are working. For example, it may be considered an unfair practice to have people work more than a certain number of hours. There may be a certain number of breaks that a person is entitled to while working.

Employees have the right to strike when they believe that their wages or working conditions need improvement.
Employees have the right to strike when they believe that their wages or working conditions need improvement.

The conditions of the environment in which people work may be the subject of a fair labor practice. It may be required that a certain level of property maintenance be adhered to. Certain work environments may be required to have items such as first aid kits, a list of labor laws, or protective equipment where they can be accessed by the employees. An unfair labor practices can also result from the manner in which a person is fired or notified of being fired.

Many labor laws also regulate affairs related to unions. The NLRA gives employees the right to join or form a union and to participate in union activities. The goal to ensure fairness in the workplace is not left solely to written rules and regulations. Employees also have the right to strike when they believe that their working conditions or wages need improvement. An employer's attempt to deny any employee of these rights is an unfair labor practice.

Generally, labor laws tend to pertain to most employees, but this is not always that case. An unfair labor practice in one sector may not be considered unfair in another. For example, police and doctors may be denied the right to strike. There may also be instances when special regulations have been outlined for a certain industry. South Africa's Employment Act, for example, has sections that pertain specifically to farm workers.

Unfair labor practice may occur as a result of disagreements regarding employee pay.
Unfair labor practice may occur as a result of disagreements regarding employee pay.

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Discussion Comments

anon291335

Our work assigns overtime "willy-nilly" with no set rules. They say one thing and do another. In a factory with 500 plus employees, is this legal?

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