(Reuters) – The US National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday said employers must compensate workers for “direct or foreeable” financial harms, such as credit card debt and out-of-pocket medical expenses, that result from illegal firings and other unlawful labor practices .
the 3-2 rulings in a case involving Texas-based Thryv Inc, which sells Yellow Pages advertising, expands the limited financial remedies available to workers when their employers violate the National Labor Relations Act.
The NLRB’s three Democratic members said in the ruling that the enhanced remedies would make it easier for the board to carry out its duty to make workers whole when their rights to organize and join unions are violated.
“We cannot fairly say that employees have been made whole until they are fully compensated for these kinds of pecuniary harms if the harms were direct or foreseeable consequences of the respondent’s unfair labor practice,” the majority wrote.
Thryv and its lawyers at Seyfarth Shaw did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represents Thryv employees.
Thryv in 2019 laid off six sales workers over the objections of their union, which had requested to bargain with the company before any employees were terminated, according to filings in the case.
IBEW filed a complaint with the NLRB accusing Thryv of refusing to respond to the union’s numerous requests for information about the layoffs.
An administrative law judge sided with the union last year and ordered Thryv to reinstate the workers and pay them the wages they would have earned had they not been fired, a common remedy in NLRB cases known as backpay.
Thryv appealed to the board, which called for public input on whether it should use the case to expand the money damages available to workers who are subject to illegal labor practices.
The NLRB received more than a dozen amicus briefs early this year, mostly from major labor unions.
the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups pushed back, arguing that the NLRB lacks the power to award punitive damages that can be ordered by courts.
The board on Tuesday rejected those claims, saying damages are not punitive when they merely compensate workers for their financial losses.
Republican board members Marvin Kaplan and John Ring, whose term ends on Friday, dissented. They said the remedies considered by the board were similar to those available in traditional tort lawsuits, and that the NLRB could violate employers’ constitutional right to a jury trial by awarding them.
“This standard opens the door to awards of speculative damages that go beyond the Board’s remedial authority,” they wrote.
The case is Thryv Inc, National Labor Relations Board, No. 20-CA-250250.
For Thryv: Arthur Telegen of Seyfarth Shaw
For the IBEW: Jonathan Newman of Sherman Dunn
For the NLRB: Laurie Duggan (NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that only board member Ring’s term ends this week.)
NLRB boosts backpay awards for illegally fired employees
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