In a recent decision, the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) returned to its earlier precedent “applying setting-specific standards” in cases involving employees who are disciplined for misconduct that occurs during activity otherwise protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Board announced its return to the “traditional standards” earlier this month in Lion Elastomers LCC II.
On May 30, 2023 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) General Counsel issued a memorandum advancing the position that non-compete agreements between employers and employees, which limit employees from accepting certain jobs at the end of their employment, interfere with employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act). The memo, which is the latest pronouncement in an aggressive agenda to curtail established management practices, and expand the reach of the Act, directs the NLRB’s regional staff to begin enforcement of this novel, expansive interpretation of the law.
On Feb. 21, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) ruled in McLaren Macomb, 372 NLRB No. 58, that the mere proffer of a draft severance agreement containing broad confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). You can read our prior blog post outlining the details of the Board’s decision here.
On Feb. 21, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued its decision in McLaren Macomb, 372 NLRB No. 58 (2023), where it held that severance agreements withbroad confidentiality and/or nondisparagement provisions impermissibly chill and restrain employees’ exercise of rights protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The decision applies in both union and non-union workplaces. The decision is significant in that it overruled prior Board precedent and signals the Board’s unwillingness to enforce or otherwise accept severance agreements, or key provisions of those agreements, that bind signatory employees’ confidentiality and nondisparagement obligations that the Board considers to be too broad. The Board’s decision would not apply to supervisors, managers, or individuals not otherwise subject to Section 7 of the NLRA.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel has issued a complaint against the University of Southern California (USC), the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA claiming that certain USC student-athletes are employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and that the conference and the NCAA, along with the university, can be held jointly responsible employers for the treatment of those students under the law. This NLRB litigation portends fundamental consequences for private college and university athletic programs.
On Dec. 14, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued a decision that (again) modifies its standard for bargaining-unit determination cases where a labor union seeks to represent a unit that contains some, but not all, of the job classifications at a particular workplace. The decision, in American Steel Construction, Inc., revives the Board’s prior test governing such determinations set forth in Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011), which was overruled in PCC Structurals, 365 NLRB No. 160 (2017), and The Boeing Co., 368 NLRB No. 67 (2019).
In its 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision, the Board identified the elements to be satisfied if the proposed union was to be recognized. Among these were that the unit is “sufficiently distinct.” If a party contested the petitioned-for unit on this ground – thereby arguing that certain employees not included in the proposed unit should have been – it would bear the burden of proving that there was an “overwhelming community of interest” between the petitioned-for employees and excluded employees in order to add the excluded employees to the petitioned-for unit. This was a difficult standard for employers to meet and widely recognized as a boon for union organizing. In the wake of Specialty Healthcare, unusual “microunits” were organized, including cosmetic and fragrance counter employees at a Macy’s department store.
In its 2017 PCC Structurals decision, the Board overruled Specialty Healthcare and adopted a different test for the “sufficiently distinct” element: instead of the “overwhelming community of interest” test, the Board adopted a test whereby “the interests of those within the proposed unit and the shared and distinct interests of those excluded from that unit must be comparatively analyzed and weighed.” This test therefore removed the burden from the employer challenging the composition of the unit and instituted a balancing test that did not explicitly begin with deference to the petitioned-for unit. The test gave employers far greater ability to oppose recognition of a unit consisting of some, but not all, of the employees within their workplace.
This week’s decision in American Steel expressly overrules PCC Structurals and Boeing and reinstates the “overwhelming community of interest” standard of Specialty Healthcare. The Board elaborated that this means that when there are only “minimal differences, from the perspective of collective bargaining… then an overwhelming community of interest exists, and that classification must be included in the unit.” The Board indicated that meeting this standard would be akin to showing that “there is no rational basis for the exclusion.” So long as the petitioned-for unit consists of a clearly identifiable group of employees with a shared “community of interest,” the Board will presume the unit to be appropriate. The impact of this decision is to again empower unions and employees to organize along narrower lines of job classification. Even prior to American Steel, employers have seen a significant uptick in organizing activity in the last several years. This decision will likely further invigorate unions to again focus on “micro units” as a path to organizing workplaces, and employers again face the prospects of multiple distinct bargaining units among their employees.
On Nov. 2, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking to strengthen protections for unions in the election process. Among other things, the proposal would alter the rules instituted by the Trump Board in 2020 that made it easier for employees to decertify incumbent unions. The proposed changes are purportedly intended to protect workers’ ability to make free choices regarding union representation and to encourage collective bargaining.
With the proliferation of remote work options in today’s post-pandemic world, employers’ electronic monitoring of their employees’ daily activities has become more routine. On October 31, the National Labor Relations Board (Board) general counsel (GC) released a new memo cautioning against the potential violations of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (Act) that use of such electronic monitoring may raise by “significantly impairing or negating employees’ ability to engage in protected activity and keep that activity confidential from their employer[.]” The GC announced intent to urge the Board to “zealously enforc[e]” existing Board precedent in this context and protect employees rights “to the greatest extent possible.”
In a September 2021 memorandum, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) signaled its intent to exercise the full extent of its power to enforce stricter and more costly penalties for unfair labor practices (ULPs). The change was made evident in June 2022, when the Board issued a consequential damages award in a settlement agreement for the first time ever.
On Sept. 6, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (Board) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would revise the standard for determining joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The proposed standard would rescind and replace the joint-employer rule that has been in effect since April 27, 2020.
On June 24, 2022, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., 2022 WL 2276808 (June 24, 2022), the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992) and held that (i) the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion and (ii) the authority to regulate abortion is held by the states. The statute at issue in Dobbs was Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which banned abortion after 15 weeks except in a medical emergency or in the case of severe fetal abnormality. Employers across the nation must now determine how to evaluate and respond to the far-reaching implications of this decision.
In February 2021, New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging that the retailer failed to sufficiently prioritize hygiene, sanitation and social distancing at its fulfillment center and delivery station in New York City.1 The Complaint also alleged that Amazon unlawfully terminated employees at those locations who complained about conditions they perceived to be unsafe.2 The Complaint asserted causes of action under various sections of the New York Labor Law (NYLL), including Sections 200, 215 and 740, all of which “relate to the obligations of New York businesses to adequately protect the health and safety of employees and to refrain from discrimination or retaliation against employees who complain about potential NYLL violations.”3