The recently passed Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act imposes many new obligations and prohibitions on New Jersey public employers. Municipalities should be aware of these – especially since the Act is effective immediately.
Municipalities must allow Unions to meet with union members during the workday to discuss grievances or complaints. Municipalities must permit Unions to conduct meetings during lunch or non-working breaks. Municipalities must give at least 30 minutes to Unions to meet with new hires during the orientation process, within 30 days of hire.
There is an affirmative obligation to provide contact information about unit employees. There are two obligations. First, upon hiring a new unit employee (whether or not they choose to join the union), municipalities must provide the Union with the employee’s name, job title, worksite location, home address, work telephone number, home telephone number, cellular telephone number (if on file), date of hire, work email address, and personal email address (if on file). This information must be provided within ten (10) days of hire. Second, every quarter (120 days) beginning on January 1, 2019, municipalities must provide the Unions with the foregoing information for each unit employee (whether or not they choose to join the union). These correspondences are exempt from production under ORPA.
Municipalities must permit the Unions to use the work email system to communicate with members. Municipalities must also allow Unions to have meetings on Municipal-property, provided it does not impact governmental operations. Such meetings must not, however, be to support or oppose any political candidate. The Municipality may charge the Unions any costs incurred in the use of the building (costs that would not otherwise have been incurred).
There is an obligation to negotiate with the Unions about including the provisions of the Act into their collective negotiations agreement – even if that agreement is not currently open for negotiations. Municipalities have an obligation the respond to any such request within ten days of receipt. These provisions are therefore enforceable through the grievance and binding arbitration process.
Municipalities are prohibited from encouraging Union members to resign their membership or to revoke the authorization of deduction of fees. Municipalities must not encourage or discourage employees from joining Unions.
Violations of the Act can be considered unfair labor practices (as well as subject to grievances, as explained above).
Employees are required to authorize deduction of dues in writing, but said writing may be in electronic form. There are, however, limitations to an employee withdrawing that authorization once it has been given. Employees may only withdraw their consent during the ten days following each anniversary date of their employment. Once such withdrawal notice is received, Municipalities must notify the Union and it becomes effective 30 days after the anniversary date. This effective date of withdrawal of authorization may be subject to negotiation with the Union.
The Act states that the Public Employment Relations Commission should promulgate regulations to implement the Act, it is nonetheless effective immediately. Accordingly, it is very important that Municipalities be aware of these obligations.
If you have questions or concerns about the New Jersey Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act, please do not hesitate to contact one of our Employment and Labor Law attorneys: Thomas Ryan, Esq. (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ursula Leo, Esq. (email@example.com), or Jessica Jansyn, Esq. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our attorneys can also be reached by phone at (973) 729-1880.