Naomi Soldon

Naomi Soldon of the Law Office of Soldon McCoy Discusses Legal Concerns Regarding Employees Returning to the Office

Since the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan began in December 2020, more than 317 million doses of the vaccines have been distributed within the United States, leading many employers to ask their employees to return to the office after more than a year and a half of remote work. As expected, an onslaught of lawsuits are now taking place regarding employees’ rights to continue to work from home, the right to remain unvaccinated, and other concerns regarding COVID-19 exposure and employees returning to an in-office setting. Naomi Soldon, a Wisconsin-based attorney, specializing in labor and employment law, recognizes the significance of this development and hopes to answer some of the most common concerns related to returning to the office. 

Companies Requiring Workers to Get COVID-19 Vaccination 

One of the most widely discussed questions within American media today is whether or not companies will be able to require employees to provide confirmation of vaccination before returning to the office. Legally, companies are allowed to require documentation of vaccination. In fact, companies have already exercised this right as the majority of companies require proof of flu vaccination from new employees. However, if an employee refuses to be vaccinated due to a disability or religious belief, the company must provide the exempt employee with “reasonable accommodations” that do not pose an “undue hardship” on the business. Some examples of these reasonable accommodations include: 

– Asking the unvaccinated worker to wear a face mask during work hours

– Allowing the employee to continue to work remotely 

– Requiring the employee to perform periodic COVID-19 tests

 Firing Workers Who Refuse to Return to the Office

For many years, the American workforce has pushed for employers to offer more remote work options to improve national “work-life balance.” For this reason, it comes as no surprise that many American employees are now hesitant to return to the office now that they have seen the benefits of working remotely. In fact, one recent survey found that 58% of workers say they will “absolutely” look for a new job if their current company requires them to return to the office post-pandemic. While employees can look for new positions that offer remote work options, Naomi Soldon wants to stress that workers cannot legally refuse to return to the office. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employees do not have the right to refuse to return to their job because of unsafe work conditions.

Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Unions

As demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, unions continue to be an essential tool for workers in helping to secure workplace safety measures, paid sick time, additional premium pay, and work-share arrangements. While the necessity of unions is clear, many groups of workers throughout America are hesitant to unionize in fear of employer retaliation. Attorney Naomi Soldon, a partner at Soldon McCoy, specializes in employment law and has handled countless employee benefits suits in arbitration and in state and federal courts. Today, Naomi Soldon will answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding unions and unionizing in hopes of reducing misinformation regarding this topic.

Why are Unions Important?

The power imbalance between workers and employers is prominent, and oftentimes, workers will have little say over their working conditions, wages, or hours. Unions are vital because they help to reduce this power imbalance and help set standards for a better quality of life for workers. Unions can help negotiate wages, benefits, working conditions, and health care for workers. Unions can help establish laws improving conditions for their members and through national and state legislation, also benefiting workers outside of unions. 

What is a collective bargaining agreement?

A collective bargaining agreement, otherwise known as a C.B.A., is a legal agreement negotiated between a labor union and an employer that sets terms and conditions of employment for employees who are members of the labor union. A CBA will often include sections related to wages, working hours, working conditions, health insurance benefits, and vacation time. Once the collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon, a company’s management cannot reduce wages or change health insurance benefits without first negotiating with union representatives. The C.B.A. states that employees are entitled to vote on changes made to their contract. If an employer does not abide by the agreed-upon terms, the union will enforce the contract through a grievance procedure and sometimes in arbitration.  

Can Employers Fire Workers for Unionizing? The right to collective bargaining, or the right to organize, is a fundamental right provided to workers in the private sector by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The labor relation laws in the private sector clearly state in Sec. 7 that employees “…shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” (NLRA, 29 U.S.C. § 157). Workers cannot be fired, demoted, penalized, or disciplined in any way for engaging in any union activity.

Attorney Naomi Soldon Touches on 5 Questions to Ask When Joining A Union

Naomi Soldon answers your questions.

As a leader at Soldon McCoy, Naomi Soldon deals a lot with unions. Soldon McCoy is a law office based out of Wisconsin that provides many legal services such as providing legal counsel to a variety of labor unions, health and welfare pension funds, laws relating to unions as well as individual employment and workers compensation laws.

Although Ms. Soldon understands the discontent and annoyances of teachers and their unions, she is devoted to providing her best legal advice to all union workers.

These are the typical industries with union jobs:

  • Actors, Directors, and Producers
  • Bakers
  • Bus Drivers
  • Camera Operators
  • Construction Workers
  • Doctors
  • Electricians and Utility Workers
  • Engineers
  • Factory Workers
  • Farm Workers
  • Firefighters
  • K-12 Teachers
  • Miners
  • Nurses
  • Office Workers
  • Pilots
  • Plumbers
  • Public Employees
  • Railroad Conductors
  • State Workers
  • Truck Drivers

Members of unions work together to improve workplace conditions and negotiate things people care about like decent raises, affordable health care, and job security to name a few. However,  they are not always represented fairly. This is where attorneys like Naomi Soldon come in for legal advice.

There are pros and cons of being a member of a union and she touches on 5 important questions to ask when joining a union.

Question #1. What is the cost to be a member of a union?

Most unions have a membership fee, these fees vary tremendously. The fees are used to support all union activities which include, paying the salaries and benefits of union leaders and staff, political campaigns, union strike fund, pension health, safety funds, union governance, and legal advice. The amounts of dues are determined by the members of the local unions, known as chapters. If membership fees are a concern, check into your industry to gain better knowledge of what your fee would be.

Question #2. Can anyone join a union?

As an American of the United States, anyone has the right to join a union, but not every industry has them. Also, as a citizen of the United States, it is your legal right to organize a union if one is not available for you to join. Starting one at your organization is an option.

Question #3. Why would I want to join a union?

There are many benefits of joining a union and one of them is being part of a larger group that supports one another. Being able to negotiate collectively is much stronger than one person alone. The possibilities of being heard as a group are greater than a single voice. This also leads to better working conditions.

Union members have a stronger job security. They also have set pay standards and workplace protections. Union workers are more likely to have guaranteed pensions, and they earn better wages and benefits than non-union members.

Question #4. Is joining a union a good idea?

There are perks that come from joining a union but be mindful that there are some drawbacks like those monthly dues. Costs do vary depending on your union. Most of the decisions are made by the group not individually. This can be good and bad. Good for having a larger group to back up all the team made decisions as well as being heard. Another plus is that you will always have personal protection, unions always have your back.

Question #5. What makes a good union?

Naomi Soldon understands that two main factors that make a union powerful are the representatives and the employers. The best unions can deliver a lot of stuff for their members. An organization that focuses on the wants and needs of their members are the best unions.

Attorney Discusses Wisconsin Labor Laws and Worker’s Compensation

Each year, more than 150 thousand workers within the United States suffer workplace injuries and must seek out medical treatment as a result. Worker’s compensation laws are an essential part of employee coverage and ensure all injured employees receive wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and other benefits when injured at their place of employment. Naomi Soldon of Soldon McCoy, the nationally recognized Union Labor Law Firm, hopes to inform American workers on the importance of understanding their state’s worker’s compensation coverage. Below, employment and labor law attorney Naomi Soldon will answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation. 

Who is Covered by Worker’s Compensation? 

Within the state of Wisconsin, all employees working for an employer with three or more workers are covered by the Worker’s Compensation Act. Employees of businesses with fewer than three workers are only included if the employer pays more than 500 dollars in wages during any calendar year quarter. Wisconsin public and private employees are covered under the act, including minors, corporate officers, and part-time employees. 

Works that are covered by federal laws and not the Worker’s Compensation Act include: 

– Employees of the federal government 

– Employees of the interstate railroads

– Seamen who work on navigable waters and those who load and unload vessels

Employees not covered by the Workers Compensation Act include: 

– Domestic servants

– Any person whose employment is not in the trade, business, profession, or occupation of the employer

– Volunteers

– Religious sect members 

– Employees of Native American tribal enterprises 

What Injuries Are Covered By Worker’s Compensation? 

Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Act define an injury as “any mental or physical harm caused by workplace accidents or diseases, including accidental damage to artificial limbs, dental appliances, and teeth.” Some examples of the many injuries that are covered include: 

Physical harm – Fractures, burns, cuts, bruises, hernias, sprains, stiffness, amputation, crushing injuries, sudden loss of hearing or vision, disfigurement, loss or paralysis of part of the body. 

Mental harm – traumatic neurosis, nervous disorders, hysteria, and brain hemorrhage.

Accidental Injury- Physical or traumatic mental harm caused suddenly and unexpectedly due to an employment-related activity. 

Occupational disease – chronic physical or mental harm caused by long-term exposure to an employment related substance, condition, or activity. 

Does Worker’s Compensation Cover Medical Expenses? 

Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation states that any employee who is injured at work or suffers from an occupational disease is entitled to all medical, surgical, and hospital treatments relating to the injury to be covered. This includes doctor bills, hospital bills, medical and surgical supplies, medicines, crutches, and artificial limbs, training in the use of artificial limbs, and lost time and travel expenses for medical treatments and examinations. 

Naomi McCoy On Understanding Your Rights When it Comes to Forming a Union

When Congress enacted The National Labor Relations Act in 1935, it granted employees the right to join or form a union and “engage in protected, concerted activities to address or improve working conditions.” Before the National Labor Relations Act, employers within the US were free to punish or fire groups seeking higher pay or better benefits. Naomi Soldon, of Soldon McCoy, a Wisconsin law firm with more than 75 years representing unions in different industries and professions, has throughout her career sought to educate the public on the intricacies of general labor laws. To better help groups looking to form a union, Naomi Soldon will discuss various union rights and ways employers frequently attempt to interfere with these groups. 

While employees looking to form a union are advised to read The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in its entirety, several sections can be prioritized over others. Section 7 of the NLRA discusses in detail the rights granted to employees within unions, such as “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist a labor organization, to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Furthermore, section 7 also addresses the right of employees to “refrain from any and all activities.” In other words, an employee cannot legally be pressured by a coworker into joining or forming a labor union. However, it is far more common for employers to attempt to stop workers from union formation or other concerted and protected activities. 

According to Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA, “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” are identified as unfair labor practices. It is common for employers looking to stop the formation or activities of a union to instruct managers to tell employees that there may be mass layoffs resulting from a union forming. Other tactics have included anti-union banners, video ads, and posters within the workplace, asking supervisors to discuss with each employee their views on unions, and requiring employees’ attendance at daily anti-union meetings. These actions are in direct violation of Section 8(a)(1) and should be immediately reported to the union organizing committee or a to other union representatives. 

It is essential that workers document any and all cases of employer interference and contact a labor attorney as soon as possible. 

Union Membership Dip is a Pandemic-Era Problem that could Persist, says Naomi Soldon

Naomi Soldon

Successful negotiation of union contracts is a major milestone for workers. Among other perks, these agreements ensure fair compensation and generous healthcare plans for the unionized employees. However, these contracts expire and a new bargaining process will commence to ensure continued coverage. Naomi Soldon, whose expertise is in labor relations law, as well as union/employer jointly trusteed health, welfare and pension funds, advises potential clients that heading to the bargaining table without expert legal representation is a fool’s errand. In the current climate, where employees are questioning companies over their response to the coronavirus, worker protections are more important than ever.

According to a November 2020 article from The Sacramento Bee, a decline in union membership among state workers in California has unfurled against the backdrop of COVID-19. Statistics showed that 69 percent of state employees there belonged to a union in February; it was down to 67 percent as of August and the “biggest factor in the slight decline appears to stem from a reduced rate of new employee sign-ups.” The report notes “momentous changes in working conditions, including risks of COVID-19 infection and rapid shifts to remote work.” The latter point is of interest to Naomi Soldon, who says the physical distance been workers can complicate the core component of belonging to a union: solidarity. “It’s sort of difficult to recruit new members on Zoom; you miss that person to person sort of connection,” an executive director of one union told the newspaper.

When a workforce makes an effort to unionize, the inevitable goal is to obtain better benefits and compensation. Employers generally accept these requests, but the back-and-forth in a legal setting to lock in union contract terms can be exhausting for all involved. Both workers and employers are wondering what healthcare plans will look like in a post-coronavirus world? Will employers still be generous with pension plans given the economic damage they’ve already suffered? These are huge issues for union members, who have families and futures to consider, and a veteran labor law layer can make all the difference when it comes time to nail down a new agreement.

When Naomi Soldon steps up to represent unions, she’s able to call on her trial and appellate court experience. As a 1990 graduate of University of Wisconsin Law School, Ms. Soldon has also been admitted to the United States Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals for the Sixth and Seventh Circuits. She has also been admitted to State Bar of Wisconsin as well as the District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin and Michigan.