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
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), three federal agencies that enforce major federal labor and employment laws, are joining forces to combat employer retaliation. Employers must be aware that these federal agencies are moving forward with concrete steps to jointly coordinate efforts to take action and litigate against workplace violations and are incentivizing workers to come forward with their concerns.
It is no secret that private sector union membership has dramatically decreased over the past several decades. This reality has forced labor organizers to get creative with their efforts. Perhaps this is one reason why stories of a union presence at tech industry giant, Google, have recently gained so much attention. Reports of a “minority union” at Google began to swirl earlier this year after a group of several hundred Google employees announced their creation of the “Alphabet Workers Union.” Named for Google’s parent, Alphabet, Inc., the Alphabet Workers Union was supported by, and now affiliated with, the Communication Workers of America. The union claimed its membership quickly grew to more than 800 members.
The first few weeks in the Biden administration have been nothing short of busy. At the National Labor Relations Board (Board), it seems like there has been no time to waste in prioritizing items on the administration’s agenda.
Only hours after being sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2021, President Biden took unprecedented action and fired Trump-appointed General Counsel Peter Robb. Former General Counsel Robb was reportedly offered the opportunity to resign, but refused, and was then fired. Robb’s term was set to expire in November of this year. A day later, Biden terminated second in command, Deputy General Counsel Alice Stock. President Biden appointed Peter Sung Ohr to serve as Acting General Counsel of the Agency. Ohr, most recently served as the Regional Director of Region 13 of the NLRB in Chicago.
Earlier this month, the federal court for the Western District of New York issued a decision in Charter Communications, Inc. v. Derfert, No. 20-cv-915, 2021 WL 37726 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2021) holding that an employment arbitration agreement did not preclude a hearing before the New York State Division of Human Rights (the Division) on an employee’s discrimination claim.
On June 10, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (the NLRB or the Board) issued a decision that reversed a 2014 Board decision regarding the test for exercising jurisdiction over faculty members at religious institutions. In Bethany College, the Board held that the test for exercising such jurisdiction that was established by the Board in Pacific Lutheran University was inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals precedent, and restored the test established by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in University of Great Falls v. NLRB.
On February 26, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board issued its final rule regarding the standard for determining joint employer status. The final rule overturns the standard articulated in the Board’s 2015 Browning-Ferris decision and returns to the pre-Browning-Ferris “direct control” standard. The final rule also provides greater clarity regarding the application of the standard. The purpose of the rule is to increase predictability and consistency with respect to the Board’s determination of joint employer status under the National Labor Relations Act. The final rule will go into effect on April 27, 2020.