COVID-19 presents a formidable health and safety challenge to employers, and unionized employers also must address issues in the context of their obligations under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and a collective bargaining agreement. The broad range of issues includes both mandatory subjects of bargaining and business decisions that impact the employees of the bargaining unit. Such issues include health and safety concerns, attendance and staffing issues, wage and hour issues, leave issues, changes in work schedules, layoffs, and temporary reductions in hours or closure of the business to reduce infection rates. Missteps in effectuating these major changes can lead to violations of the NLRA and an increase in the incidence of workers refusing to work. Employer’s ability to navigate these issues successfully requires an understanding of their rights under both the collective bargaining agreement and federal law in this novel situation. Here are some key considerations and proactive measures employers can take to facilitate timely and decisive employment actions.

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The acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Lafe Solomon, has addressed a number of workplace topics, including social media policies, at-will employment statements and class action waivers in arbitration agreements. In addition, a new NLRB webpage describes the rights of employees, even if they are not in a union. Both of