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NLRB launching drive to raise worker rights awareness

A great number of actions can result in an ethical worker winding up on the receiving end of illegal employer retaliation. There are laws in Texas intended to protect employees from these kinds of actions, but they may go unused because individuals don't know about them. Those who suspect they've been the victim of such action can make more informed decisions if they consult an attorney for honest, practical advice.

Another resource that stands on the side of workers across the country is the National Labor Relations Board. This is an independent federal agency assigned the mission of safeguarding employees' rights. Most people believe its focus is limited to issues involving unions and employers, but it also acts to counter unfair practices against non-union workers. Retaliatory actions such as wrongful termination, demotion, change in pay or even changes in work schedule can come under scrutiny.

This perhaps somewhat unsung role is one that is going to get some attention from the NLRB in the next several weeks. Officials say they are set to unveil a Web page to reinforce the message that nonunionized employees have many of the same rights as union workers, especially in the context of activities in which two or more employees join forces for mutual help and protection.

In addition to the Website, officials say they're producing materials in English and Spanish explaining worker rights. Agency officials say they will also highlight a number of specific cases the NLRB has participated in, including one in which two Texas Dental Association workers were found to have been illegally fired after generating a petition to complain about bad management and unfair treatment.

The case was eventually resolved in July 2010. The association paid the two workers $900,000. The workers waived reinstatement to their jobs and received neutral letters of reference from the group.

There are observers who say that the NLRB campaign is just a ploy to seem relevant in an era of declining union power. But agency officials deny that. They say this is an old message and that people seem ready to hear it more now than they have been in a while.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Worker Rights Get Promotional Drive," Melanie Trottman, March, 22, 2012

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