Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Guide: Threat To Workers’ Rights

Unfair labor practices (ULP) have become increasingly common in the workplace, but what are they? ULP are actions taken by employers or unions that violate federal labor laws. These actions include discrimination, termination, or refusal to bargain in good faith. We will explore what ULP is and discuss some of the most common forms of ULP. 

We will also discuss the steps employees can take to protect their rights and how they can file a complaint if they believe they have been a victim of ULP.

Unfair labor practice (ULP) is an essential concept in labor law related to employee rights. It refers to any act by an employer or a labor organization that violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). 

ULP encompasses a wide range of practices, such as interfering with the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively, discriminating against employees based on their union activities, and retaliating against employees who make complaints about the employer or the union. This blog post will discuss what ULP is and why it matters.

What Is ULP?

Unfair labor practice (ULP) is an action by an employer or a union that violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This act is a federal law that governs the way employers and unions interact and engage with their employees.

ULPs can include illegal activities, such as firing an employee for union activity, and legal activities that may still be considered unfair or discriminatory. 

For example, they are not allowing employees to discuss wages or benefits with each other or not providing the same benefits or wages to all employees in the same job category.

ULP charges can be filed by individuals, unions, and other organizations if they believe their rights have been violated. Individuals must first file a charge with the NLRB or their State agency before taking legal action against their employer. 

Employees cannot be retaliated against by their employers after filing a charge of unfair labor practices. If a complaint is valid, the NLRB will order the employer to take corrective measures to fix the problem. This could involve restoring any lost wages or changing practices to comply with the NLRA.

The Types Of ULPs

Unfair labor practices (ULPs) refer to actions by employers or unions that violate workers’ rights or interfere with their ability to engage in collective bargaining. The following are some of the types of ULPs that are recognized under labor law:


Discrimination against employees based on race, gender, age, disability, religion, or other protected characteristics is prohibited by law. Employers who engage in discriminatory practices may be found to have committed a ULP.


Employers may not retaliate against employees for engaging in protected activities, such as joining a union, filing a complaint about workplace conditions, or participating in a strike. Retaliation may take many forms, including termination, demotion, or other adverse employment actions.

Interference with union activities

Employers may not interfere with the formation or operation of a union, nor may they coerce employees into not joining a union or engaging in union activities.

Examples of interference include surveillance of union activities, threats against union members, and interference with union elections.

Refusal to bargain in good faith

Employers must bargain with unions in good faith, which means they must meet and negotiate with the union over wages, benefits, and other working conditions.

Employers who refuse to bargain or who engage in surface bargaining (going through the motions of bargaining without intending to reach an agreement) may be found to have committed a ULP.

Unilateral changes

Employers may only make unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment with bargaining with the union. This includes wage changes, benefits, work hours, and other working conditions.

Coercion and intimidation

Employers may not coerce or intimidate employees into giving up their rights under labor law or engaging in protected activities.

Examples of coercion and intimidation include threatening to fire employees who support a union or asking employees to sign statements indicating they do not support the union.

Refusal to provide information

Employers are required to provide unions with information that is relevant to bargaining. This includes information about wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Employers who refuse to provide this information or who provide incomplete or misleading information may be found to have committed a ULP.


Employers may not use lockouts as a bargaining tactic. A lockout is when the employer bars employees from entering the workplace until a labor dispute is resolved.


Unions may not engage in illegal strikes or violate the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. Examples of illegal strikes include wildcat strikes (not authorized by the union) and secondary boycotts (boycotts of companies that are not directly involved in the labor dispute).

Failure to comply with arbitration awards: Employers and unions may agree to submit disputes to arbitration.

Once an arbitration award is issued, both parties must comply with its terms. Employers who fail to comply with an arbitration award may be found to have committed a ULP.

ULPs can take many forms, from discrimination and retaliation to coercion and intimidation. The labor law protects workers and unions against these unfair practices, and employers who engage in ULPs may be subject to legal action and penalties.

The Effects Of ULPs

Unfair labor practices (ULPs) can significantly affect both workers and employers. These effects can be financial, legal, and psychological. Some of the effects of ULPs are as follows:

Decreased employee morale

ULPs can decrease employee morale, affecting productivity and the overall work environment. Discrimination, retaliation, and intimidation can make employees feel undervalued and unsupported, decreasing job satisfaction and increasing stress.

Increased employee turnover

ULPs can also lead to increased employee turnover, as workers may leave their jobs due to unfair treatment or a lack of support from their employer.

This can be costly for employers, as they may have to spend time and resources recruiting and training new employees.

Legal costs

Employers who engage in ULPs may face legal action, which can be costly in time and money. Legal costs may include attorney fees, fines, and damages awarded to employees.

Damage to reputation

ULPs can damage an employer’s reputation among employees and in the community. Word of unfair treatment can spread quickly, leading to negative publicity and a loss of trust from customers and stakeholders.

Loss of business

If ULPs lead to negative publicity or legal action, employers may also suffer a loss of business. Customers may take their business elsewhere if they believe an employer is engaged in unfair practices.

Decreased bargaining power

Unions may also be affected by ULPs, as they can decrease their bargaining power with employers.

Interference with union activities, refusal to bargain in good faith, and other ULPs can make it difficult for unions to negotiate favorable terms for their members.

Economic harm to workers

ULPs can also lead to economic harm. Unilateral changes to working conditions, failure to provide information, and other ULPs can result in reduced employee wages, benefits, and job security.

Reduced union membership

ULPs can also lead to reduced union membership, as employees may become disillusioned with the union’s ability to protect their rights.

This can weaken the union’s bargaining power and ability to negotiate favorable terms for its members.

Increased tension in the workplace

ULPs can lead to increased tension in the workplace, as employees may become distrustful of their employer or union.

This can create a hostile work environment, possibly leading to violence or physical harm.

Unfair competition

Finally, ULPs can create unfair competition between employers. Employers who engage in ULPs may be able to undercut their competitors by paying lower wages or offering fewer benefits, creating an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

ULPs can significantly affect workers and employers, including decreased morale, increased turnover, legal costs, damage to reputation, and economic harm to workers.

Unions may also be affected by ULPs, as they can decrease their bargaining power and ability to negotiate favorable terms for their members. Employers who engage in ULPs may face legal action, negative publicity, and a loss of business, creating a ripple effect throughout the economy.

How To File A ULP Charge

Filing an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge is essential in protecting your rights as an employee or union member. Suppose you believe that your employer or union has engaged in actions that violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

In that case, you may be able to file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The following are the steps involved in filing a ULP charge:

Understand what constitutes a ULP

Before filing a charge, it is essential to understand what actions by an employer or union may constitute a ULP.

According to the NLRA, employers and unions cannot take specific actions interfering with employees’ rights to join or form a union, engage in collective bargaining, or engage in other protected concerted activities.

Examples of ULPs include discrimination, retaliation, intimidation, failure to bargain in good faith, and interference with union activities.

Gather evidence

To support your ULP charge, you must gather evidence demonstrating that the employer or union engaged in the alleged ULP.

This may include emails, witness statements, and other documentation supporting your claim. To strengthen your case, you should gather as much evidence as possible.

Contact the NLRB

If you believe your employer or union has engaged in a ULP, contact the NLRB’s regional office with jurisdiction over your workplace.

You can find your regional office on the NLRB’s website. The regional office will provide information on how to file a ULP charge and answer any questions you may have.

Complete the charge form

The NLRB will provide you with a charge form you must complete. The charge form will ask for your contact information, the name and address of the employer or union, and a description of the alleged ULP.

It is essential to be as detailed as possible when describing the alleged ULP to provide the NLRB with a clear understanding of your case.

Submit the charge form.

Once completed, you must submit it to the NLRB’s regional office. You can do this by mail, fax, or in person. The charge form must be signed, dated, and submitted within six months of the alleged ULP.


After you submit your charge form, the NLRB will investigate the allegations to determine whether there is merit to the charge.

This may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, and gathering other evidence. The NLRB may also hold a hearing to gather additional evidence.

Settlement or hearing

If the NLRB finds merit to the charge, it may try to settle with the parties. A settlement agreement may include provisions such as back pay, reinstatement of terminated employees, and a requirement to post notices informing employees of their rights under the NLRA.

If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may be heard before an administrative law judge.


If the administrative law judge finds the employer or union engaged in a ULP, the NLRB may order the employer or union to take remedial action. Remedies may include:

  • Back pay.
  • Reinstatement of terminated employees.
  • A requirement to post notices informing employees of their rights under the NLRA.

The NLRB may also issue a cease and desist order, which requires the employer or union to stop engaging in the alleged ULP.

It is important to note that filing a ULP charge can be a complex and time-consuming process. It is also essential to act quickly, as there are strict deadlines for filing a ULP charge with the NLRB.


Unfair labor practices are severe and damaging issues affecting employers and employees. It is essential to be aware of the types of ULPs, their effects, and how to file a ULP charge if necessary. By understanding the laws that protect workers from unlawful actions, employers and employees can prevent these violations from occurring and keep their workplace safe. 

Employers should also educate themselves on current labor laws to better understand their rights and responsibilities. Employees who think they may have been victims of an unfair labor practice should contact an attorney or the NLRB for help filing a complaint.

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