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Our attorneys stay on top of changes in legislation, agency regulations, case law, and industry trends—then craft timely legal alerts to keep clients up to date on legal developments important to their business.

September 8, 2023

New York State Passes Law Barring Employers From Mandating Employee Attendance at Captive Audience Meetings

On September 6, 2023, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill that curtails an employer’s ability to hold captive audience meetings, which are mandatory meetings held by an employer during working hours to discuss union organizing. Captive audience meetings have been a commonplace practice used by employers to communicate information to their workforce about the impacts of unionization in the workplace during the course of an organizing attempt by a union.

Although these meetings have been held to be lawful under the National Labor Relations Act (so long as the meeting entails no threats or promises of benefits to employees tied to union organizing), they have come under greater scrutiny and have been in the crosshairs of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, who issued a memo on the subject in April 2022. 

The new law bans employers from disciplining employees who refuse to attend meetings during which the employer discusses religious or political matters. “Political matters” is defined by the law to include matters relating to union elections or the decision to join or support a union. 

In enacting the new law, New York State follows a handful of other states that have passed similar laws restricting employers’ ability to hold captive audience meetings and aligns with the current NLRB General Counsel’s agenda to ban captive audience meetings altogether. 
 
Questions exist surrounding the validity of these laws; specifically, whether they are preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act. 

Steps employers should consider in light of the new law include: 

  • Educating managers and supervisors on the new law
  • Evaluating the risk of holding captive audience meetings if the employer is subject to a union organizing effort 
  • Considering voluntary meetings with employees where the employer expresses its views about unionization
  • Reviewing current employment policies to ensure that they do not call for discipline of an employee who refuses to attend a meeting covered by the new law 
  • Consulting with experienced labor counsel to develop a compliance strategy that is right for your organization

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Megan Bahas, of counsel, at mbahas@barclaydamon.com; Bob Heary, Labor & Employment Practice Area chair, at rheary@barclaydamon.com; or another member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Area.

The Labor & Employment Podcast is a weekly Barclay Damon Live podcast hosted by Ari Kwiatkowski that provides employers with important updates regarding ever-evolving state and federal labor and employment laws as well as a wide range of timely topics pertaining to labor and employment issues in the workplace. Click here to watch or listen to the Labor & Employment Podcast as well as Barclay Damon’s other podcast series: Cyber Sip and Cannabis Counselor. 
 

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