Colorado and Washington Likely to Join States Banning Captive Audience Meetings: 5 Steps Employers Can Take to Comply

Credits: Foundation for Economic Education

Colorado and Washington are expected to join other states in banning mandatory employer meetings on religious or political topics, known as “captive audience meetings.”

These meetings, which require attendance under threat of penalty and often involve discussions about union membership, would face severe penalties under proposed legislation in Colorado.

Democrats in Colorado have introduced a bill with steep penalties for conducting improper captive audience meetings or retaliating against employees who refuse to participate.

Audience Meetings (Credits: SHRM)

The penalties include actual damages, additional fines for repeat violations, equitable relief such as reinstatement, and coverage of attorneys’ fees and costs.

Certain communications and meetings would be excluded from the proposed ban in Colorado, such as those required by law or necessary for job duties, as well as casual conversations with employees that are not mandatory.

Meanwhile, Washington is close to enacting its own ban on captive audience meetings through the “Employee Free Choice Act,” which would also require employers to post a notice of employee rights.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has also weighed in on captive audience meetings, with its top prosecutor claiming that they violate the National Labor Relations Act.

Audience Meetings (Credits: Horton Management Law)

NLRB regional offices have been pursuing unfair labor practice charges against employers to challenge the precedent supporting mandatory group meetings.

To comply with these laws, employers should collaborate with stakeholders and labor counsel to develop a compliance strategy, train supervisors on legal parameters, update handbooks and policies to clarify the voluntary nature of meetings on religious or political matters, be transparent about meeting purposes, and find ways to document voluntary attendance.

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