What is the Main Purpose of the National Labor Relations Act?

By hrlineup | 30.11.2020

HR professionals, especially in smaller companies, have their plates full. They deal with sensitive issues related to wages, hiring and retention, benefits, and overall employee labor relations.

Unions have even made things worse, thanks to the passing of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by Congress in 1935. This employment law outlines the basis of unfair labor practice charges that an employee can file against an employer.

So, whether you’re an HR professional, supervisor, or just an employee, this guide will help you understand the National Labor Relations Act impact on how employers should interact with unions and their employees.

What is the National Labor Relations Act?

Sometimes called the Wagner Act of 1935, the National Labor and Relations Act is a law that guarantees employees the fundamental right to form or join a union and engage in collective bargaining. Under this act, an employer can’t take any legal action against employees engaging in union activities.

Also, the Wagner Act established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as the permanent body for hearing and resolving labor disputes. The NLRB will also oversee employee union elections and determine if a union can represent employees in collective bargaining with an employer.

However, the Wagner Act doesn’t protect independent contractors, domestic service workers, agricultural workers, and people employed by their spouse or parents.

Employer Violations of the National Labor Relations Act

Discrimination Against a Union Employee

The NLRA stipulates that an employer cannot discriminate against retaining or hiring an employee with or without union membership. If found guilty of violating this rule by the NLRB, the prejudiced employee would receive compensation from the employee.

Firing of an Employee for Union Activities

The Wagner Act prevents employers from terminating an employee’s contract because of supporting a union. If the NLRB finds an employer guilty of violating this rule, they will order for reinstatement of the employee in question.

Interfering with Union Activities

An employer shall not dominate or control a union, according to the National Labor Relations Act. If found guilty, the NLRB might disband the union altogether and order the employee to repay the employee union dues.

Interfering with Employee Rights to Organize Unions

The NLRA requires employers not to interfere or restrain employers from organizing a union to bargain collectively. If found guilty, the National Labor Relations Board will issue a cease-and-desist order.

Bargain in Good Faith

Lastly, the Wagner Act requires an employer to negotiate in good faith with the bona fide union representatives. If an employer violates this rule, the NLRB will direct a new bargaining process and in good faith.


Violating the NLRA can lead to expensive lawsuits and, in a worst-case scenario, jail terms for the company’s senior management. So to avoid these ugly scenarios, organizations are today hiring labor relations professionals with vast knowledge about labor laws, economics, and collective bargaining trends.