NEW YORK — Ruling that an employer cannot call for an election to determine whether to unionize a facility before the union has asked to be recognized, the National Labor Relations Board on Monday struck down a petition by Brylane L.P. to hold a secret-ballot election at its Indianapolis distribution center.

The catalog retailer threw an unexpected twist in the 11-month-long organizational campaign last month when it petitioned the NLRB to conduct a secret-ballot election — a rare move for an employer. That request followed months of UNITE demonstrations that targeted the distribution center, the company’s New York offices and other fashion houses owned by French conglomerate Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, Brylane’s parent company.

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