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Another Federal District Court upholds NLRB expedited election rules

In April 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) implemented a rule that effectively speeds up the time in which union representation elections occur. The process toward a union representation election typically starts when the union petitions the NLRB to conduct an election. During the months since the rule took effect, the time between petition filing and the representation election has been about 23 days. That is down 39.5 percent from the 38 day average that was common before the rule went into effect. As long as the rule remains in effect, there is every reason to expect this trend …

U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari in a case challenging the constitutionality of fair share fees for public-sector unions

In what looks to be an ominous development for public-sector unions, the United States Supreme Court, on June 30, 2015, granted a petition for certiorari by the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case out of the Ninth Circuit challenging the constitutionality of requiring public-sector workers who opt out of union membership to still pay union dues as part of “fair share fee” arrangements in collective bargaining agreements. It is ominous because a little over one year ago in the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Harris v. Quinn, Justice Alito wrote a majority opinion that blasted …

NLRB files complaint against postal service for not bargaining with union over effects of data breach incident

We all pretty much know the drill at this point. Organization announces data breach, sends out notices as required under state and/or federal law to those individuals that are affected, offers some kind of identity theft protection or credit monitoring service, awaits public criticism and backlash. The NLRB and the American Postal Workers Union (“AWPU”) apparently think that there should be an additional step when the data breach involves the personal information of employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement – bargaining over the effects of the data breach on, and the remedy to be provided to, the …

The NLRB is prepared for its new election rule, are you?

The NLRB’s controversial “quickie election” rule is slated to take effect April 14, 2015. That’s next week! Two lawsuits filed by employer groups in January to block the rule are pending in separate federal courts of appeals. However, absent a “hail Mary” ruling by one of these courts, employers have to ask themselves if they are prepared for the NLRB’s new election rule that takes effect next Tuesday.

The NLRB’s General Counsel (“GC”) has taken further steps to ensure that his office is ready. On April 6, 2015, NLRB GC Richard F. Griffin, Jr. issued a 36-page guidance memorandum to …

NLRB: employer unlawfully fired employee for calling supervisor a “NASTY M____ F____ER”

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015, the NLRB issued an order upholding an ALJ decision that Pier Sixty LLC violated Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act when it terminated an employee who wrote on his Facebook page that his supervisor was a “NASTY M____ F____ER.”

According to the Board’s majority opinion, a number of service employees at Pier Sixty had expressed interest in union representation, in part because of concerns that management repeatedly treated them disrespectfully and in an undignified manner. Two days before the union election, a 13-year employee, who was working as a server at …

NLRB General Counsel provides roadmap for handbook policies

Pushpin marking location on mapIf you have been trying to follow recent NLRB cases and guidance for what is considered legal in handbook policies, and if you feel a little lost, you are not alone. No employer wants handbook policies that a federal government agency considers illegal, but lately it has been a bit of a challenge to figure out what the NLRB will bless and what it will not. There is a little more direction now. The NLRB General Counsel recently issued a 30-page memorandum for guidance on handbook rules. The GC’s stated purpose is to “help employers to review their handbooks and …

More caution from the NLRB to employers with broad handbook prohibitions

Similar to our blog post last week on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel’s guidance memorandum on employee handbooks, a NLRB administrative law judge (ALJ) last week ruled that two handbook provisions that once passed muster are no longer okay. In a decision that pre-dates the GC guidance memorandum, the ALJ found that a handbook rule prohibiting “[a]ny activity which causes harm to the operations or reputation of” the employer to be overly broad and unlawful. According to the ALJ, an employee could reasonably believe that a work strike or complaint to other employees about wages (including complaints …

NLRB general counsel guidance memo on employee handbook policies is required reading for all employers

On March 18, 2015, NLRB General Counsel Richard F. Griffin, Jr. issued Memorandum GC 15-04, which he intended to bring some clarity to the NLRB’s sweeping enforcement effort against employee handbook policies his office has deemed to be overbroad and infringing on workers’ Section 7 rights. All employers, particularly those that are not unionized, should take this 30-page memo in hand and compare it to their own employee handbooks to see if any of their policies  might be considered illegal by the NLRB.

The memorandum is split into two parts. In the first part, it compares policies found to …

NLRB “quickie election” rule challenged in court

On December 18, 2014, we posted about the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) proposed rule which will expedite procedures for union representation petitions and elections. The proposed rule is expected to make it easier for unions to successfully organize employees because it will curtail the time available for employers to communicate to employees before the vote occurs.

The proposed rule is to take effect April 14, 2015. On Monday, January 5, 2015, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other management representative groups filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District …

NLRB poised to relax standard for establishing joint employment; may mean more union issues in franchising and temporary service worker deals

On Friday, December 19, 2014, the NLRB General Counsel’s office issued complaints against McDonalds and 13 of its franchisees, alleging that they jointly retaliated against workers who participated in the many fast food minimum wage protests that occurred around the country earlier this year. Many business analysts are projecting that a Board decision finding that McDonald’s is a joint employer with its franchisees would rock the fast food industry as well as the many other industries that rely heavily on the franchising model for their economic viability. While the McDonald’s complaints are getting a lot of attention, the Board itself …

NLRB issues final rule on “quickie elections”

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a final rule making significant changes to the procedures leading up to union representation elections. To secure the right to represent a group of employees, unions must first get a showing of interest among an appropriate group of workers. That is typically done by getting employee signatures on authorization cards. With at least a 30% showing of interest, a union can file a petition with the NLRB requesting a representation election. Once the petition is filed there must be a determination of what is the appropriate group of jobs to be included in …

Obama Board declares 30-year old NLRB deferral standard inadequate

On December 15, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” and “Board”) issued a decision in which the three Democratic-appointed members of the Board struck down the standard that the NLRB has applied for the last 30 years to determine whether to defer to arbitral decisions in cases that also involve alleged violations of Section 8(a)(3) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The case, Babcock & Wilcox Construction Co., Inc., is broad in scope, because the majority also use it as an opportunity to announce changes to the NLRB’s pre-arbitral deferral standard and to its standard …

NLRB begins its “purple” reign: Board holds employers must permit employee use of company email systems for union organizing

In a decision issued yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board opened the door for employees to use company email to send messages encouraging co-workers to unionize. In Purple Communications, Inc., the Board reversed what had been the law for the past 7 years. In its 2007 Register Guard decision, the Board had allowed companies to prohibit employee use of company email to solicit support for any cause, including union organizing. Reversing course in Purple Communications, the Board now holds that companies must permit the use of company email for solicitation, at least during non-working time, which is generally …

NLRB reinstates food industry employees following work-related complaints

Employees today are certainly more media and marketing savvy than they were even 10 years ago, and they have more tools through which they can reach the public and each other to let their voices be heard. Two recent NLRB cases demonstrate that if employers are too aggressive in attempting to combat these employee communications, they can end up on the wrong end of an unfair labor practice finding.

In Triple Play Sports Bar & Grille, the National Labor Relation Board held that two employees had engaged in protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”) when …

NLRB decisions on “mini-unit organizing”

We reported in 2011 about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision in Specialty Healthcare. That controversial decision opened the door for unions to target small sections of a workforce for union organizing.  For example, in the past, a union trying to organize had to target all similarly-situated employees. In a manufacturing plant that was typically all production and maintenance workers and usually included all blue-collar departments, like shipping and receiving. But, the Specialty Healthcare case opened the door for a union to target smaller groups, like the maintenance group alone, or the shipping and receiving group. Being able …

Reminder to federal contractors about NLRA Employee Rights poster obligations

There is some confusion in the employer community about the obligation to post a notice concerning union organizing rights. Most employers do not have the obligation, but many companies with federal contracts or subcontracts do.

In 2013, as a result of the National Ass’n of Manufacturers v. NLRB, 717 F.3d 947 (D.C. Cir. 2013) and Chamber of Commerce v. NLRB, 721 F.3d 152 (D.C. Cir. 2013) decisions, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule requiring all private employers to post a notice to employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was invalidated. The NLRB …

U.S. Supreme Court rules against the NLRB in recess appointments case

On Thursday, June 26, 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled the three recess appointments President Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) in January 2012 were invalid and unconstitutional. In NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Obama exceeded his powers when he by-passed Congress and unilaterally appointed three Board members to the NLRB in January 2012. The issue turned on whether Congress was in “recess” at the time the appointments were made – as claimed by the President – or on an intra-session break as claimed by the employer …

NLRB’s opposition towards broad social media and other employer policies keeps popping up

Does your handbook or social media policy say something like this:

“If you comment about the Company on the Internet, you must say that your views are not those of the Company.”

 “Do not use the Company’s logo or other trademarks on social media.”

 “You may not discuss the Company’s confidential business plans on the internet.”

Do you think these restrictions pass muster under National Labor Relations Board decisions?

Employer efforts to craft social media and other handbook policies to comply with recent NLRB cases and guidance is a little like playing whac-a-mole. No matter how many you smack down, …

What do Woody Hayes, Knute Rockne and Jimmy Hoffa have in common?

If you could ask them if they ever thought college football players should have the right to join unions and bargain with their universities, chances are all three would have had a good laugh. Of course, in their day the revenue stream from college football was not measured in billions of dollars and the concerns of college athletes were not what they are today. Still, it is interesting to consider what these three might make of the recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chicago Regional Director that college football players are “employees” with the right to unionize?…

NLRB General Counsel Announces Priority Matters To Be Submitted For Advice

On February 25, 2014, NLRB General Counsel, Richard F. Griffin, Jr., issued the first General Counsel Memo of the year (GC 14-01) identifying cases that the NLRB’s Regional Directors must refer to the NLRB’s Division of Advice for “centralized consideration” and to “enhance our ability to provide a clear and consistent interpretation of the [National Labor Relations] Act.” The list is divided into three groups, two of which should be of particular concern to employers. The first group includes issues that reflect General Counsel initiatives or areas of the law and labor policy that are of “particular concern” …

The National Labor Relations Board Continues Its Hostility Toward Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

Class action waivers in arbitration agreements, when used correctly, are an extremely effective tool for employers to reduce exposure on employment claims.  So, naturally, the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will not support them.  Having lost before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on their argument that Section 7 and Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) categorically prohibit explicit class action waivers, the NLRB remains undeterred.  Here is what the NLRB is up to now.

Background

As brief background, Section 7 of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. § 157, grants most private-sector employees in the United States …

NLRB Re-Embarks On Quest to Speed Up Union Elections

Yesterday, February 5, 2014, the NLRB officially announced the reissuance of its controversial proposed election rule changes that were first proposed in 2011 and promptly dubbed by employer groups as the “quickie election” and “ambush election” rules. In a statement issued by Board Chairman Mark Pearce, the NLRB yesterday stated:  “Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers. These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties, in all cases, whether non-union employees are seeking a union to represent them or unionized employees are seeking to decertify a union.”

According to the NLRB’s press release, the proposed …

NLRB Posting Rule is Dead

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced yesterday it will make no further efforts to revive a workplace posting rule that it had originally proposed in the fall of 2011. The rule required all union and non-union workplaces to post a detailed notice concerning worker rights, including the right to join unions, and the right to act together for mutual support. The rule was challenged immediately in two federal court lawsuits. The two Federal Courts of Appeal that heard the cases both held that the rule exceeded the NLRB’s proper authority and invalidated the rule.

In its announcement yesterday, the …

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Knocks Down NLRB Decision: And, in Doing So, Supports Employer Effort to Avoid Class Action Claims

One of the most significant risks to business in recent years has been the proliferation of class action employment-related lawsuits. Class action claims have been especially popular with plaintiff’s lawyers pursuing federal Fair Labor Standards Act wage claims. A class action lawsuit can mean huge costs for defense and damages. Some employers have attempted to manage the risk by having employees sign agreements requiring that they pursue employment law claims against the company in arbitration, rather than in court. Sometimes employers include in the arbitration agreement a specific waiver of the right to pursue class action claims in court or …

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