Labor Law (also Employment Law or Labor Relations) addresses the legal relationship between employers, employees, and unions. This area of law attempts to equalize bargaining power and strike a balance between employee demands for better working conditions and an employer's desire to keep costs down. Labor laws ensure workers certain rights against their employers, such as the right to unionize, earn minimum wage, and work in a healthy and safe environment. Employment Law is composed of federal law, state law, and case law. Most private employers who do business in interstate commerce are subject to the National Labor Relations Act, a federal law. States generally regulate employers and employees who are not covered by the NLRA. For example, Massachusetts law governs private employers whom the NLRA has declined jurisdiction over and public employers such as the state and its political subdivisions.
To learn more about Labor Law, the following links and general collection of web pages may be helpful:
To learn more about finding Labor Relations Cases, the following links may be helpful:
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – This federal agency conducts elections, investigates charges, seeks resolutions, decides cases and enforces orders to protect employees from unfair labor practices committed by private employers and unions.
Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) – This department merged the Labor Relations Commission and the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration. The DLR decides disputes involving employers and employees who are not subject to the NLRB.
The best search to run in the law library catalog is a keyword search.
The library has many databases available to current law students, faculty, and staff. These databases are especially useful when access to Westlaw/Lexis is limited. They provide a vast wealth of information. Be sure to utilize these resources!
General Information: The Labor and Employment Law Resource Center (BNA) database may be particularly useful for researching current issues in labor law and employment.
Law Review Articles: Relevant databases for finding law review articles on Labor and Employment Law:
The links below to Massachusetts and Federal statutes and regulations are to free online resources. These resources may not be updated frequently and are not annotated.
29 U.S.C. §151 – 169. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was enacted by Congress in 1935 under its commerce clause power to regulate private employers and employees who affect interstate commerce. The NLRA was amended in 1947 by the Taft-Hartley Act and again in 1959 by the Landrum Griffen Act.
If the NLRA is not applicable, employers and employees may have their relationships regulated by other federal or state statutes such as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act (FSLMRA) and the Railway Labor Act.
Title 29 Labor
Employers and employees who are not covered by the NLRA or another Federal statute are governed by Massachusetts’ Labor Relations Statutes.
456 C.M.R. 1.00 et seq. Rules and Regulations of the Division of Labor Relations
804 C.M.R. 3 Employment Discrimination
Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541(2011).
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, refused to certify a nation-wide class of 1.5 million female employees who sued their employer for discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Court recognized that although some employees may have a valid claim by establishing Wal-Mart’s discretionary policy permitted supervisors to discriminate, given the employer’s size and geographical scope, it is unlikely that all managers acted alike or that all petitioners have sufficiently common claims to join in a class action.
Authority v. National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, Local 3, 458 Mass.
"Evergreen clauses" that extend the terms of a lapsed contract during negotiations were found invalid under G. L. c. 150E, § 7 (a), which prohibits extending the duration of a CBA beyond three years.
Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, 129 S.Ct. 1456 (2009).
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court forced union members to arbitrate claims against their employer under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 by upholding the legality of an unambiguous provision in the collective-bargaining agreement.
IBM Corp., 341 N.L.R.B. 1288(2004).
The NLRB overruled Epilepsy Foundation and reaffirmed E. I. Dupont & Co. by refusing to extend the “Weingarten right,” which entitles union employees to have a coworker present at a disciplinary interview, to non-unionized employees.
H.S. Care L.L.C., d/b/a Oakwood Care Center and N&W Agency, Inc.,343
N.L.R.B. 659 (2004).
The NLRB overruled M.B. Sturgis and found that temporary employees are not to be included in a unit of permanent employees unless all parties consent.
National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S.
The Supreme Court upheld the National Labor Relations Act as a proper exercise of Congress’ commerce power and guaranteed employees’ right to self-organization by enforcing an order requiring the employer to reinstate employees who were discharged for union activity and compensate them for their lost pay.
National Labor Relations Board v. J. Weingarten, Inc., 420 U.S.
The employer committed an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act when it interfered with the employee’s right to engage in activities for “mutual aid or protection” by denying the employee’s request to have a union representative present at an interview, which the employee believed would result in discipline. The Supreme Court recognized that Union employees have a right to request union representation as a condition to participating in an investigatory interview with the employer’s representatives if the employee reasonably believes the investigation may result in disciplinary action.
E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Walter J. Slaughter, 289 N.L.R.B. 627(1988).
In a non-union setting, employees are not entitled to the presence of a fellow employee in an investigatory interview, even if the interview may lead to discipline, and may be discharged for refusing to submit to such an interview.
Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).
The Supreme Court held that discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not limited to economic discrimination and that unwanted sexual advances, which create a hostile work environment, constitute a form of discrimination. The court also recognized that employers can be liable for sexual harassment practiced by supervisory personnel.
Massachusetts State Agencies & Advocacy Organizations
The Boston Bar Association Labor and Employment Law section is devoted to labor management relations and employment discrimination. BBA also provides an Employment Law Guide to provide lawyers with greater understanding of practicing labor law in Massachusetts.
Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) works to encourage parties to collective bargaining disputes involving municipalities and their police officers and fire fighters to agree to a procedure to resolve disputes.
The Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service provides information on Massachusetts labor and employment cases. Their website addresses issues such as wrongful termination, discrimination, workers compensation, unemployment insurance.
Massachusetts Employment Law Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries discusses MA law and provides information regarding child labor, discrimination, employment leave, employment conditions, collective bargaining, and termination.
National Agencies & Advocacy Organizations
Developments in Labor Law: Examining Trends and Tactics in Labor Organization Campaigns Hearing before the Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred Eighth Congress, 2nd session, April 22, 2004
The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is the agency that ensures compliance with the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute by establishing policies and guidance related to federal sector labor relations issues.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) assists in developing improved workplace negotiations by helping mediate collective bargaining negotiations.
The National Labor Relations Board is the independent federal agency that administers the National Labor Relations Act and works to safeguard private sector employees’ right to organize by conducting elections to determine if employees want union representation, investigating charges of unfair labor practices, seeking resolutions, deciding cases and enforcing orders.
The National Mediation Board was created by the 1934 amendments to the Railway Labor Act as a way to quickly resolve disputes, facilitate labor relations in both the railroad and airline industries and ultimately minimize strikes.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a non-profit organization established to provide free legal representation to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by abuses of compulsory unionism.
The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) of the U.S. Department of Labor is the division that enforces most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) which is applicable to private sector employees and their labor organizations.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, nationality, age (40 years of age or older), disability or genetic information. The EEOC had the authority to investigate discrimination allegations, determine whether discrimination actually took place, and file lawsuits when necessary.
Labor and Employment Law Statistics
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) posts statistics on employment diversity and enforcement and litigation.
The National Labor Relations Board compiles statistics on unfair labor practice charges, petitions, elections, decisions, litigation and remedies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides legal statistics on work place related injuries, fatalities and illness.
The U.S. Department of Labor publishes statistics from agencies on topics related to their mission.
To Learn More
Chief Counsel Memorandum 2010-1 concerning Boston Housing Authority v. National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, Local 3 provides labor representatives and management with relevant case law and answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the effect of a decision and whether it obligates the parties to bargain.
Cornell University’s Labor Unions and the Internet Cornell University’s Library prepared a web guide of useful web sites for those interested in learning more about labor unions.
House Committee on Education and Labor addresses current issues surrounding education and the workforce.
Labor and Employment Laws of the 50 States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico provided by Cornell’s Legal Information Institute
Labor and Employment Law Resources provided by the American Bar Association address up-and-coming labor relations issues and provide lawyers with all of the information they need to represent employers, unions, employees and the public in a labor law dispute.
Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) is an organization dedicated to building a network for labor relations attorneys where they can share ideas and learn about new developments in the field of employment law. LERA publishes information relating to industrial relations, human resources, union administration, and much more.
Washlaw is a free service of Washburn University School of Law and is a great way to find other internet resources on employment and labor law.
Working Life is a blog where people can discuss and exchange information about work, the economy, and labor.