Employer Illegally Withheld Benefits from Eligible Voters Granted to Non-Voting Employees
The National Labor Relations Board held that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act when it implemented better health benefits for all employees except those eligible to vote in an upcoming union election.
In Woodcrest Health Care Center, the Board applied the analysis set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in NLRB v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc., which requires the Board to consider whether an employer’s conduct has some adverse effect on employees’ rights under Section 8(a)(3) of the NLRA to engage in concerted activity regarding their terms and conditions of employment. The Board found that withholding the improved health benefits had an adverse effect “to some extent” in that the denial of benefits discouraged them from engaging in organizational activity. Under Great Dane, the burden then shifted to the employer to provide evidence of “legitimate and substantial business justification for the conduct.” The employer claimed that it was trying to preserve the status quo and avoid affecting the outcome of the election, but could offer no evidence in support of this supposed motive.
Nonetheless, that stated motive would still have been insufficient to support the denial of benefits, asserted the Board. The Board has consistently held that withholding benefits from eligible voters that are granted to other employees has a “coercive effect.” Thus, an employer cannot treat voters differently than other employees.