NLRB Allows Electronic Signatures On Authorization Cards

Volume 14, Issue 20
September 18, 2015

In another move to make it easier for unions to organize employees, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a Guidance Memorandum on September 1, 2015 announcing that, effective immediately, the NLRB will accept electronic signatures to support a union's election petition.

When a union seeks to represent a group of employees, it must file with the NLRB a petition for a representation election. The petition must prove that at least 30% of the employees in the bargaining unit at issue support the union. To satisfy this "showing of interest" requirement, a union will usually submit authorization cards or a list of signatures designating the union as the signers' agent for collective-bargaining purposes.

Requiring this showing of interest allows the NLRB to determine whether a representation election is warranted. The employer can challenge the validity of the showing of interest and seek dismissal of the petition for election if there is objective evidence to demonstrate that the signatures are not authentic or are otherwise fraudulent.

As a part of its efforts to amend the NLRB's election rules, the NLRB has determined that electronic signatures will now be accepted for a showing of interest if they include specific information (e.g., the signer's name, email address or contact information, telephone number, the language the signer has agreed to, date, and name of employer) and are accompanied by declarations identifying what electronic signature technology was used and explaining how its controls ensure: (1) that the electronic signature is that of the signatory employee; (2) that the employee herself signed the document; and (3) that the electronically transmitted information regarding what and when the employee signed is the same information seen and signed by the employee.

While the NLRB states it is simply trying to be cost-effective and fulfill Congress' request "that Federal agencies, including the Board, accept and use electronic forms and signatures, when practicable," the reality is that this change will continue to accelerate the speed of union elections. It continues to be important for employers to educate their employees about the risks of unionization before it notices organizing activity.

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