Employees got a boost this week in their right to file claims against their employers. The National Labor Relations Board said that under the historic National Labor Relations Act of 1935, employees are able to use litigation collectively to resolve grievances. Brought to the Board by through a wage and hour laws dispute, this decision will likely upset companies across the country because it provides more legal options for employees to resolve employment disputes.

This ruling will broadly affect the American workforce, as it applies to everyone in non-management positions no matter their union status. One expert said that out of nonunion workers, 25 percent of people have signed agreements saying they would resolve disputes in arbitration rather than a courtroom.

The dispute was brought to the board by a man who said his company denied him overtime benefits, violating wage and hour laws. The company than said the man’s employment status, and the status of others in his position restricted them from making collective claims against the company.

The company involved will likely appeal the decision to a federal appeals court. They believe that the employees are restricted under a decision previously made by the Supreme Court. The previous case was decided by the Court in April, which said that AT&T Mobility could use contracts to restrict customers from collectively suing the company.

Source: The New York Times, “Labor Board Backs Workers on Joint Arbitration Cases,” Steven Greenhouse, Jan. 6, 2012