On Monday, the NLRB ruled that an employee of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market had the right to solicit assistance under the National Labor Relations Act from co-workers in support of her sexual harassment claim. The employee in this case was trying to find support for her individual sexual harassment claim by asking co-workers to provide evidence on her behalf. The employer was conducting it’s own investigation and asked the employee to stop collecting statements from co-workers.
In order for conduct to be protected under the NLRA, an employee must show that he or she was engaging in “concerted” (group) activity for the “mutual aid and protection” of others, rather than just to benefit his or her self. In this case, the National Labor Relations Board found that this employee’s conduct was protected and held that an employee’s subjective intent is irrelevant in determining whether the conduct is concerted or for mutual aid or protection. Rather, the NLRB focused on whether there was a “link between the activity and matters concerning the workplace or employees’ interests as employees.” As such, because the employee here attempted to get others to help her in her complaint against the company and attempted to stop sexual harassment at the company, the NLRB held that there was, in fact, group action for the mutual aid and protection of others.
This ruling reinforces the important point that the National Labor Relations Act protects not only union activity but also attempts by any employee to obtain the assistance of another employee regarding their employment conditions in the workplace.