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NLRB general counsel calls on board to address intrusive employers


The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel says she plans to urge the board to apply the National Labor Relations Act “to the greatest extent possible” to protect employees from some employers’ “intrusive or abusive electronic monitoring.” 

Jennifer A. Abruzzo said in Monday’s memo she plans to do so “by vigorously enforcing extant law and by urging the Board to apply settled labor-law principles in new ways.”

Ms. Abruzzo said some employers in warehouses, for example, are recording workers’ conversations and tracking their movements using wearable devices, security cameras and radio-frequency identification badges.

Some are also using keyloggers and software in call centers, offices or at home, to track employees’ communication, she said.

Ms. Abruzzo charged that some employers are continuing to track employees’ whereabouts and communications even after the workday ends, with employer-issued phones and wearable devices or apps installed on workers’ own devices. 

She said also that some pry into applicants’ private lives by conducting personality tests and scrutinizing their social media accounts.

Ms. Abruzzo said in addition to enforcing current law, she plans to ask the board to adopt a “new framework” for protecting employees “from intrusive or abusive forms of electronic monitoring and automated management” that interfere with activity under the NLRA’s Section 7, the provision that protects employees’ concerted activity.

Ms. Abruzzo said in April she would ask the agency to find that mandatory meetings in which employees are forced to listen to employers urging them to reject union representation are a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

A case on the issue is pending before the U.S. District Court in Sherman, Texas, in Burnett Specialists Staff Force et al. v. Jennier A. Abruzzo et al.