New York State’s Captive Audience Law Explained
Within a day of its arrival on her desk, Governor Hochul enacted New York’s “Captive Audience Law” (S4982/A6604), amending Section 201-D of the NYS Labor Law. The main purpose of this law is to prevent employers from taking punitive actions against non-managerial employees who do not attend company-sponsored meetings intended to convey the employer’s stance on religious or political matters (so called “captive audience” meetings). This is significant because the new law broadly defines “political matters” to encompass organized labor, particularly decisions related to supporting or joining labor organizations. In effect, employers in New York State are now barred from requiring that employees attend meetings intended to discourage unionization.
The passage of this law marks a significant deviation from the rights of employers to engage in speech protected by Section 8(c) of the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA regards mandatory, “captive audience” meetings as a form of protected employer speech under Section (c) – provided management does not use threats, promises of benefits, or punishment to discourage employee unionization. “Captive audience” speeches, however, are prohibited by the NLRB within 24 hours of a union representation election.
By contrast, the New York law makes it illegal for employers to refuse to hire, employ, or license non-managerial workers for choosing not to attend meetings, listen to speech, or view communications primarily intended to express the employer’s religious or political views, including unionization. Protected employees also may not be discharged or discriminated against regarding terms of employment for having declined to attend an employer’s “captive audience” meeting. Review the law in its entirety, here.
New York joins Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon in banning mandatory “captive audience” meetings. While this indicates a growing national trend, legal challenges are emerging around whether these bans conflict with Section 8(c) of the NLRA, highlighting the complex legal landscape surrounding this issue.
Bleakley Platt & Schmidt’s Labor & Employment Law Practice Group is prepared to counsel New York employers on compliance with this new law and will continue to monitor this legal trend on both the NYS and national level. To learn more, contact Joseph DeGiuseppe, Jr, at email@example.com.