Most union-free employers never give a second thought to the National Labor Relations Board unless a union is knocking at the door. Last year tells us that is a mistake. The NLRB, the federal agency responsible for enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, previously focused almost exclusively on union-related issues. Employers with no union or organizing activity had little reason to concern itself with the NLRB, but that is no longer true. With declining unionization rates in the private sector, — only 6.9 percent of private-sector employees were unionized in 2011 — the NLRB is struggling to redefine its role so it can reassert its relevance. Focusing on union-free employers is its answer.

In the past two years, the NLRB has focused on union-free employers by (1) enacting changes to election rules (some of which have been struck down by courts) to make it easier for employees to unionize and (2) scrutinizing all employers’ policies and disciplinary decisions. This article focuses on the latter set of changes. While much has been written about the NLRB’s recent interest in social media policies and related discipline, other employment policies merit just as much concern.

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