Workers seeking a union can now receive more from employers who illegally fired them.
“Companies that illegally fire or demote unionizing workers can now be held responsible for workers’ financial demise — including credit card late fees, lost housing or cars and health-care costs — in a move that could help some workers who have been fired from Starbucks and Amazon, labor activists say.
‘Employees are not made whole until they are fully compensated for financial harms that they suffered as a result of unlawful conduct,’ said labor board chair Lauren McFerran in a statement.
For decades, employers that fired workers for their involvement in labor organizing — a legally protected activity — have only had to pay for the employee’s reinstatement and lost wages. But labor advocates say that has amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist, especially for major employers with deep pockets such as Amazon and Starbucks.
‘Fear of retaliation and dismissal is the primary obstacle stopping workers from getting involved in union organizing campaigns,’ said John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University. ‘Increasing the currently meaningless penalties for terminating workers is the most obvious thing to fix that.’
Under the new ruling, the labor board can also hold companies, as well as unions, liable for damages, such as a wronged worker’s health-care and child-care costs, immigration paperwork and visas, lost investment income and legal fees for defending against unpaid bills.
To obtain relief for workers, the agency’s top prosecutor will be required to provide evidence that the company’s actions provoked the financial harm and that it was direct or foreseeable. Companies will then have the opportunity to disprove that evidence.
The agency can also collect these penalty payments when employers illegally demote employees, cut their wages or otherwise retaliate.”
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