As you may know, the National Labor Relations Board substantially revised the rules governing the union elections process, by which employees choose whether or not they wish to be represented by a union. The controversial revisions greatly sped up the process, with the effect that employer had less time to educate their employees about the impact of unionization before an election is held – which means more unionization (hence the controversy!).

These revised “quickie election” rules took effect in April 2015. Because the rules themselves were not troubling enough for employers, we now have to contend with the Board’s expansive interpretation of those rules. Here’s an example of what I mean.

As part of the election process, the employer must provide a voter list to the union, containing the names and contact information for all employees eligible to vote in the election. Before the revisions, this list consisted of the names and addresses of eligible voters. This information is readily available from a company’s human resources department, through its database or records. The revised rule, however, requires that the list must now include “available” personal e-mail addresses, and home and cell phone numbers.Voting List

What does this mean? Well, in the Danbury Hospital of the Western Connecticut Health Network case, the employer generated a list from its HR database. The list contained the addresses and emails for all the eligible voters, and phone number for 94% of them.

A Regional Director of the Board found this was not good enough, because the employer “failed to search its other available data sources,” and therefore didn’t exercise “reasonable diligence” in its search. According to the Regional Director, the employer should have searched “all” the multiple other databases that it uses for operational purposes, as well as “non-electronic means.” This includes the nursing unit employee database used by the Nursing Department Staffing Office to store contact information, and the database maintained by the Emergency Department for sending mass emails regarding open shifts, along with a separate list of e-mail addresses. It also includes the list of employee phone numbers maintained by one of the hospital’s units. And the Applicant Tracking System that the hospital uses for processing and tracking both internal and external applicants for open positions.

With regard to this ATS database, the hospital pointed out that it contains 36,000 contacts, and reasonably noted it would be unduly burdensome to sort through all of these. The Regional Director, however, blithely dismissed this point, saying that the ATS differentiates between internal and external candidates, “a feature that would likely dramatically reduce the number of employees whose records would need to be searched.” (?!!! Even still…)

So my question is, where does the madness end? Supervisors may keep contact information for their employees in their files or even on their smart phones. Do we now need to search each manager’s contacts lists? Find every paper that has a list of employee phone numbers that may be floating throughout the company, in every department, unit, office? Really?