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Employee Complaints No Longer a Protected Concerted Activity

Employees who are unhappy with some aspect of their work conditions often share their frustrations with other employees. A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision made during the Obama administration held that these types of complaints were a protected activity, which meant that employers could not discipline an employee based on complaints made to another employee about work conditions.

However, in January of 2019, the NLRB overturned that decision. As a result, employees who share their complaints with co-workers could face disciplinary action and possible termination.

In a case involving an Alstate Maintenance, LLC, a skycap worker at JFK International Airport was terminated after complaining to his supervisor, in front of several coworkers, about having to transport a soccer team’s equipment. According to the skycap worker, he did not receive a tip from the same team the previous year after he helped the group move their luggage.

The NLRB upheld the Administrative Law Judge’s decision that the termination did not violate the National Labor Relations Act. The employee ultimately carried out his job responsibilities after complaining about it. However, he and three other employees were terminated because of the complaints made about the lack of tips from the previous year.

Protected Versus Not-Protected Activity

According to the Labor Board, the employee’s complaints did not constitute a protected activity. If the complaints were made during an employee meeting, or if the issue that the employee was complaining about impacted all of the employees, the Labor Board may have ruled differently. However, because of the circumstances of the complaint, and that they were made in front of colleagues, the employer’s decision to terminate the skycap was not a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

In the 2011 Worldmark by Wyndham court decision, the judge held that employee complaints having to do with terms and conditions of employment in a group setting are protected and concerted activity. However, the recent ruling in the Alstate Maintenance, LLC case overruled that decision, which means that any statements made in a meeting, or in a group setting where other employees are present, will not be automatically considered a concerted activity.

If a complaint is related to the terms and conditions of employment, a full investigation should take place before any disciplinary action is taken. An experienced Philadelphia employment lawyer should review the case and recommend the best legal course of action.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at the Law Offices of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Protect the Legal Rights of Employees

If your employment has been terminated, or disciplinary action has been taken against you after making complaints about your work conditions, you are urged to contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at the Law Offices of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, where we serve clients throughout South Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.