In a memorandum issued this week, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it will accept electronic signatures to support a showing of interest related to a union organizing campaign and representation petition. Relying on its current regulations, NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin wrote that the evidentiary standards that the NLRB traditionally applies to handwritten signatures apply equally to electronic signatures.

Mr. Griffin defended this decision, noting that it is more practical to accept electronic signatures, and that doing so is in line with Congress’ request that federal agencies accept and use electronic forms and signatures when possible. Electronic signatures, however, must contain certain features in order to establish their authenticity and to provide a mechanism by which the NLRB may investigate allegations of forgery or fraud. Those features are:

  • Submissions supported by electronic signature must contain the signer’s name; the signer’s e-mail address or other known contact information; the signer’s telephone number; the language to which the signer has agreed; the date the electronic signature was submitted; and the name of the employer of the employee.

  • The party submitting an electronic signature must submit a declaration identifying the electronic signature technology used and explaining how its controls ensure that the electronic signature is of the signatory employee, and that the employee him/herself signed the document; and verification that the electronically transmitted information is the same information seen and signed by the employee. 

  • If the electronic signature technology does not allow for verification that the information transmitted is the same information seen and signed by the employee, the submitting party must submit additional evidence supporting its authenticity. 

This guidance, the most recent in a string of union-friendly decisions and rules, is effective immediately. Coupled with the NLRB’s recent changes to the election rules and its decisions concerning employee access to employer e-mail systems, this guidance may significantly accelerate a union’s ability to organize. Employers should take steps immediately to assess their vulnerability to union organizing campaign activities. 

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment Group routinely advise clients on developments in labor and employment laws, including NLRB memoranda and decisions that should concern employers subject to the Board's jurisdiction.


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