Term Paper: Labor Relations Legal Interpretations of Labor Laws

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Labor Relations

Legal Interpretations of Labor Laws

The Labor-Management Relations Act, first enacted in the late 1940s and amended several times since, provides a framework for the legal rights and responsibilities of employers and employees that come under the purview of the National Labor Relations Board, including any business that engages in interstate commerce and most other larger companies, as well. It would seem, then, that deciding labor disputes would be a relatively simple process; one would need only to consult the law as written in order to make a determination of the specific rights held by each party, any wrongs committed, and the legal means of redressing those wrongs. In reality, of course, things are not so simple, and interpreting the law can be a highly complex and fairly difficult issue requiring in-depth analysis and ultimately a certain level of well-reasoned yet subjective determination and decision-making.

The Great Temperature Debate

In one scenario, two employees were terminated after leaving work in a direct and planned effort to protest their working conditions. These workers had faced levels of uncomfortable cold while at their workstations, which were closer to an open door than other workstations. A rule had been established regarding the temperature and the door's position, with the door being closed only when the temperature in the entire workroom had dropped below sixty-eight degrees. Despite a central temperature of seventy-two degrees, the two workers nearest the door complained of cold, and when no action was taken they purposefully failed to return to work after lunch.

In this case, the two employees could well argue that their mutually agreed upon decision not to return to work following their lunch break was a "concerted activity" engaged in for the purpose of "mutual aid or protection" -- arguing that the cold conditions created either an unsafe working environment or had a direct and negative impact on their health would make their walk-out a protective act. It could also be seen as an attempt at collective bargaining, though as a minority of two employees in the larger workshop this argument is less valid. The employer could argue, however, that no real negotiations had taken place regarding the door/temperature policy, and that an established procedure was in place to ensure worker safety and comfort. The walk-out was not necessary to ensure safety, and the fact that only two employees wanted the door shut while the others wanted it open means that this was not really a "concerted" act, but rather an act by two disgruntled employees.

The difficulty in determining the law's application to this case should be evident; a lot seems to depend on the actual need for "aid and protection" that existed (or was perceived) and the appropriateness of the actions the employees took in providing this aid/protection. Ultimately, the walk-out of these two employees should not be seen as a concerted act, and other simpler measures could have been utilized to correct the issue without creating a work-stoppage. The lack of concerted action itself means that these two employees were not under the protection of the Labor-Management Relations Act when they walked out, and thus their… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Labor Relations Legal Interpretations of Labor Laws.  (2010, September 25).  Retrieved August 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/labor-relations-legal-interpretations/88471

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"Labor Relations Legal Interpretations of Labor Laws."  Essaytown.com.  September 25, 2010.  Accessed August 20, 2019.