July 4, 2022

Volume XII, Number 185

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July 01, 2022

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Walking Off the Job Might Be Protected Under the NLRA

Walking off the job is grounds for discipline, except for when the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) says differently. Recently the National Labor Relations Board issued a reminder that employees can at times refuse to work and not suffer any consequences. 

In Pain Relief Centers, P.A., five employees of a medical office initiated a spur-of-the-moment “walkout” in protest of mistreatment by the officer manager. Specifically, the employees complained that the manager yelled at them and exhibited abusive and threatening behavior. After an argument between the manager and one employee, all walked out in protest. The employer argued the employees, by leaving work, had effectively quit. The NLRB disagreed, finding that the walkout was protected concerted activity because it involved group action related to an issue that affected their working conditions. 

The employer was ordered to reinstate the employees with full back pay. The decision is not notable for its facts, but rather for its cautionary tale about how not to react to workplace conflict.

Non-union employees who walk off the job are engaging in protected activity under the NLRA, and thus immune from discipline, if they are acting in a concerted (group) manner for the purpose of mutual aid or protection (regarding an issue affecting their working conditions). Given the wide reach of the NLRA, employers should exercise caution in considering how to react to workplace concerns and complaints raised by a group of employees.

© 2022 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 70
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About this Author

Thomas Payne Labor and Employment Attorney Barnes Thornburg Law Firm Indianapolis
Associate

Thomas Payne is an associate in the Indianapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg, where he is a member of the Labor and Employment Department.

Prior to joining Barnes & Thornburg full time, Thomas served as a summer associate in the firm’s Indianapolis office. He also gained experience as a pro bono law clerk for the Indiana Office of the Attorney General and for the Honorable Lance Hamner of the Johnson County Superior Court.

With an eye toward becoming a lawyer, Thomas began his education at Purdue University,...

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