The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has recently issued an advice memo stating that an employer could force its employees to work overtime on the weekend. This was notwithstanding an extant union contract that had vague language with respect to whether the employer could force its employees to work overtime. The NLRB memo is a good reminder that employment contracts, including union contracts, need to be carefully worded to avoid exploitation by an employer or employee.
The Frazer memo concerns a company that wanted to be able to make its maintenance staff work overtime on Saturdays. The company’s maintenance staff was unionized, and the company was bound by a valid union contract, which is not in dispute. What was at issue was whether the union contract’s overtime provisions permitted the employer to compel its maintenance staff to work overtime on weekends. It is worth noting that the overtime provisions were acknowledged by both the employer and the union as being vague, and though they wanted to replace the provision the last time the contract was being negotiated, they were unable to come to an agreement over what terms would replace it.
In its decision, the NLRB took into consideration the previous practices of the employer, which sporadically involved both voluntary and mandatory overtime, as well as the admittedly vague terms of the union contract. The memo says that, because there is nothing in the union contract specifically prohibiting mandatory weekend overtime, it is presumed to be permissible. The NLRB’s decision comes as a blow to the union, and demonstrates the importance of clear, precise wording in drafting contracts, particularly union contracts.
If you are looking into unionizing, or you already have a union and are in a dispute with your employer, give the Law Offices of Steven Sack a call. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer who has considerable experience in handling the many aspects of labor and employment law. To schedule a consultation with New York City employment lawyer Steve Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.