Labor officials setting up RTW complaint rules

2012-03-23T10:30:00Z 2012-03-23T15:45:31Z Labor officials setting up RTW complaint rulesBy Bowdeya Tweh, (219) 933-3316

The Indiana Department of Labor has adopted preliminary rules establishing the procedure for handling alleged violations of the state's new right-to-work law.

The department issued rules on an emergency basis March 15, one day after the law went into effect, said Robert Dittmer, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Labor. The department will issue a final rules within the next three to four months.

The rule-making process is continuing despite a lawsuit filed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 in U.S. District Court in Hammond challenging the law.

With Indiana being the nation's 23rd right-to-work state, workers cannot be required to pay dues or other fees to a labor union as a condition of employment. *Federal law requires unions to provide for all employees if the union is the exclusive bargaining agent in a workplace. Unions don't have to be exclusive agents, but typically are because companies prefer to deal with only one union.

The law does not apply to labor agreements formed, modified or renewed prior to March 14. *The law also exempts agreements under the jurisdiction of the federal or state governments or a political subdivision.

Political subdivisions include counties, townships, cities, towns, school corporations, library districts, fire protection districts, public transportation corporations, local hospital authorities or corporations, local airport authority districts, special service districts, special taxing districts or other separate local governmental entity.

Under the new rules, only employees and job applicants who believe their rights were violated can file a complaint with the state Department of Labor. Complaints must be sent in writing with copies of evidence within 90 days of the alleged violation.

The Department of Labor then will determine whether the complaint warrants further investigation, and if so, the department will reach the employer. An employer can send a response within a month of being notified about the complaint. If the commissioner of labor, currently Lori Torres, approves a recommendation that the law was violated after an investigation and administrative hearing, the result may require a person, union or company to pay damages, attorney fees or other relief.

The Republican-controlled chambers of the Indiana General Assembly approved the right-to-work bill, and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law Feb. 1.

* Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify information about federal law and how it impacts a union's representation of workers.

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