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What Is the NLRB?

If you're an employee looking to improve your pay or working conditions or thinking of forming a union, you may be worried about how your employer will react. However, if you work in the private sector, there's a good chance you're protected by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Read on to learn more about the NLRB and how it can protect you as an employee.

Origins of the NLRB

The NLRB was formed in 1935 by the National Labor Relations Act, which was enacted to “protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices." The NLRB is a supervising federal agency administering the NLRA.

The Composition of the NLRB

The NLRB is composed of a five-member board, the General Counsel, and a division of judges, in addition to other offices and divisions that support these entities. The General Counsel and the members of the Board are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate for five-year terms. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the NLRB also has several regional offices to help with local union elections and alleged violations of the NLRA.

Who Is Subject to the NLRB?

Private-sector employers whose business activity in interstate commerce exceeds certain minimal levels fall under the jurisdiction of the NLRB. This can include non-union businesses, labor organizations, non-profits, and employee-owned businesses. For example, retailers are subject to the NLRB's jurisdiction if their gross annual volume of business is at least $500,000. For shopping centers, jurisdiction includes those with gross annual business of at least $100,000.


The NLRB has jurisdiction over most private sector employers, but it doesn't cover federal and state government employees, agricultural laborers, independent contractors, and supervisors (with some exceptions). Furthermore, you don't have to be in a union to be protected. If you're simply working with others to improve conditions at work, and you otherwise fall under the NLRB's jurisdiction, you can seek help from the NLRB.

How Does the NLRB Help Employees?

The NLRB plays a number of roles in aiding employees with their efforts to unionize or otherwise improve their working conditions. Below are the main responsibilities of the Board:

  • Conduct elections when employees are attempting to organize bargaining units in their workplace (or to dissolve their union through a decertification election)
  • Investigate alleged violations of the NLRA (i.e. unfair labor practices)
  • Encourage settlements between parties involved in an NLRA violation
  • Decide cases where settlement can't be reached (the NLRB includes 40 administrative law judges in addition to the five-member board)
  • Seek enforcement in the U.S. Courts of Appeals when parties don't voluntarily comply with an NLRB order

Employee Rights Protected by the NLRB

The NLRB protects the rights of workers to collectively attempt to improve their working conditions and wages whether they are in a union or not. Rights of employees protected by the NLRB include the right to form, or try to form, a union and to engage in concerted activity to improve the terms and conditions of their employment. So, if you and a colleague are trying to work with your employer to increase your pay or address safety concerns at work, your actions are protected by the NLRB.

Defend Your Rights at Work

Fighting for better pay or working conditions can be an intimidating task, especially since not all employers and managers welcome such efforts. However, you have many rights as an employee under the NLRA as well as other state and federal laws. Whether you're seeking assistance from the NLRB or you're unsure about your rights and options, contact a local labor attorney who can advise you about your rights and steer you in the right direction.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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