NLRB Allows Use of Electronic Signatures on Election Petitions

By Kelly A. Hayden, JD, Chief Legal Counsel
Published September 15, 2015

On September 1, 2015, the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) issued guidance indicating that it will accept electronic signatures to support a showing of interest for a union election petition. This guidance was effective upon issuance and was not subject to any rule-making procedure or other regulatory process.

Under current rules, a union must submit signed and dated authorization cards or a petition with dated signatures from 30 percent of eligible employees (i.e., those employees who would be eligible to be members of the bargaining unit). Unless there are allegations that the signatures are fraudulent, the NLRB will presume validity of the signatures.  If allegations of fraud are asserted, many times, the employee’s “alleged” signature can be compared to another signature, usually one maintained by the employer in the employee’s personnel file.

With respect to electronic signatures, the petition must include the signatory’s name, email address/social media account, phone number, authorization language and employer name.  There must not be any private information such as a Social Security number, date of birth, etc. The union submitting the electronic signatures must also attest to the validity of the method used to collect the signatures.  Again, the electronic signature will be presumed valid by the Board. With this presumption remaining in place, it is unclear how an employer would challenge this type of signature, as electronic fraud will no doubt be difficult for employers to gather sufficient evidence of for presentation to the Board.  The Board specifically stated: “As is now the case with handwritten signatures, an electronic signature submitted in support of a showing of interest that meets the requirements set forth herein will be presumed to be valid absent sufficient probative evidence warranting an investigation of possible fraud. Mere speculation or assertions of fraud are not now, and will not in the future, be sufficient to cause the Agency to investigate.” [Emphasis Supplied].

Over the past year alone, it is clear that this Board intends to simplify the union organizing process. The recent rules regarding “quickie” elections, as well as the rulings regarding employer solicitation policies and use of employer email systems, leave no doubt that the Board would like to see a union in your future. If you need help making sure your policies comply with recent Board decisions or training your management team on the importance of remaining union-free, email (info@hrsource.org) or call our Employment Law Services Department at (800)448-4584.

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