Friday the 13th was unlucky for the National Labor Relations Board. A Federal District Court for South Carolina ruled on Friday that the NLRB overstepped its authority by issuing a rule requiring employers to post notices. In Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. NLRB, Case No. 2:11-CV-02516-DCN (D.S.C. April 13, 2012), Judge Norton considered the limits on the rights of federal agencies to impose obligations which are different from those Congress has imposed by law. The NLRB was created by Congress under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Relying on the language of the NLRA, Judge Norton found that the NLRB was created to be reactive, not to create new obligations. The Judge found that the NLRB has two roles: conducting union representation elections; and deciding unfair labor practice charges. The Judge decided that because the NLRB has a purely reactive role, and because the NLRA does not establish any obligation for employers to post notices, the NLRB overstepped its authority by issuing the notice posting rule. The Judge noted the fact that in at least eight other federal workplace laws, Congress did include a posting requirement. The Judge reasoned that if Congress had intended a posting requirement under the NLRA, it would have been included in the statute.
The decision is in stark contrast with the earlier decision in National Association of Manufacturers v. NLRB, Case No. 11-CV-1629 (D.D.C. March 2, 2012). In that case, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the Board’s right to require posting. (For more discussion about this case, please see our previous post – Federal Court Upholds NLRB Posting Rule.) The D.C. District Court case is on appeal and it is likely the NLRB will appeal the decision of the South Carolina District Court.
So, with conflicting decisions by federal courts in two different parts of the country, what is an employer to do? It is possible the NLRB will postpone the current April 30, 2012 effective date for the posting rule. We will post a notice in this Blog if that happens. But, if the NLRB does not postpone the effective date, it will expect employers to post by April 30, with the possible exception of employers in the jurisdiction of the South Carolina District Court.