The NLRB Just Made It A Little Easier For Employees To Get Rid Of Their Union

Unionized workers wishing to rid themselves of continued union representation (and their employers) just got some very good news from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) with the issuance of Johnson Controls, Inc., 368 NLRB No. 20 (July 3, 2019).  The issue addressed there was how the NLRB will determine the wishes of employees concerning continued union representation where an employer has evidence that at least fifty percent of bargaining unit employees no longer desire to be represented by an incumbent union and the union possesses evidence that it has reacquired majority status. This is an important case because it revamps existing rules relating to an employer’s “anticipatory” withdrawal of recognition of a union and requires incumbent unions that have lost their majority to reestablish their majority status by way of a secret ballot NLRB election.

Here is how the system worked before Johnson Controls and how this process will work going forward. Continue Reading

Employers Can Now Stand Firmly On Not Paying Employees For The Cost Of Slip-Resistant Shoes

On June 4, 2019, the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District issued an unpublished opinion in Krista Townley v. BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. holding that BJ’s Restaurants was not required to reimburse its employees for the cost of black, slip-resistant, closed-toe shoes that BJ’s required its restaurant employees to wear. Due to the lack of California case law addressing the issue, BJ’s requested the opinion be published in the Official Reports. On July 5, 2019, the Court of Appeal granted BJ’s request and ordered the opinion certified for publication. This is the first published opinion in California to adopt the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement’s (“DLSE”) interpretation of a “uniform” and to hold that an employer is not required to reimburse employees for the cost of “non-uniform” work clothing. Matthew Sonne and Jason Guyser of Sheppard Mullin represented BJ’s Restaurants in this matter. Continue Reading

Southern District of New York Invalidates State Ban on Mandatory Arbitration of Harassment and Discrimination

On June 26, 2019, Southern District of New York Judge Denise Cote granted a motion to compel arbitration of a plaintiff’s sexual harassment claims finding that the New York State prohibition on mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). As we mentioned in our blog upon this law’s enactment, the United States Supreme Court has routinely held that state laws expressly identifying a category of non-arbitrable state law claims are preempted by the FAA. In Latif v. Morgan Stanley & Co., the Southern District followed the Supreme Court and found the New York ban on mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims unenforceable. Continue Reading

Which Are They? Independent Contractors Or Employees? Navigating The Conflicts Between State And Federal Law

UberX and UberBLACK Drivers Are Not Employees for Purposes of the NLRA

According to the NLRB General Counsel’s Division of Advice (GC), Uber’s UberX and UberBLACK drivers are independent contractors exempt from the rights and protections of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), including the right to form and join unions.  Advice Memo, dated April 16 2019, Uber Technologies, Inc., Case Nos. 13-CA-163062, 14-CA-158833 and 29-CA-177483. Applying the National Labor Relations Board’s (Board or NLRB) traditional multi-factored common law agency test used to determine whether workers are employees or independent contractors and after considering all of the common law factors through the “prism of entrepreneurial opportunity” as mandated by the Board’s recent decision in Supershuttle DFW, Inc., 367 NLRB No. 75 (January 25, 2019), the GC has found that the drivers were independent contractors and not employees within the meaning of the NLRA.

The GC also considered and then discounted certain factors often relied upon to establish a worker’s employee status, finding them not dispositive indicators of employee status.  For instance, in the GC’s view, the fact that Uber received a percentage of a driver’s fare instead of charging a driver a flat fee for their use of the Company’s ride sharing platform did not support a finding of employee status because the fundamental features of the Uber system including Uber’s reliance on customer reviews to maintain quality and insure repeat business without the need for company control overcame any inference of employer control or the diminution of a driver’s entrepreneurial opportunity.  Likewise, the fact that no special skills or experience were required to qualify a driver to use the Uber platform and that the driver’s work was integral to Uber’s business did not mandate a finding of employee status, citing prior Board decisions in which individuals were held to be independent contractors, even though their services were integral to the business of the company that engaged them, given the entrepreneurial opportunity afforded them.  Continue Reading

NLRB Limits Duty to Bargain Over Disciplinary Actions

A unionized employer must bargain with its employees’ union before making any unilateral changes in employees’ wages, hours, working conditions or other terms and conditions of employment.  Such changes are commonly referred to as mandatory bargaining subjects.  In Alan Ritchey, 359 NLRB 396 (2012) and later in Total Security Management, 364 NLRB No. 106 (2016), the Obama NLRB held that the discretionary discharge or suspension of a union employee was a mandatory bargaining subject — even when that discipline was carried out pursuant to an established company employment practice or policy.  Therefore, according to these two controversial Obama Board decisions and absent a collective bargaining agreement provision covering the discipline or some other overriding extenuating circumstance, an employer breached its duty to bargain and violated Section 8(a)(5) of the Act when it discharged or suspended a worker without first notifying the worker’s union of the employer’s intention to discharge or suspend the employee and without first affording that union a reasonable opportunity to meet and bargain with the employer.  However, a recent Trump Board decision, Oberthur Technologies, 368 NLRB No. 5, issued on June 17, signals a probable change in the Board’s governing case law on this issue.   Continue Reading

July 1, 2019 Minimum Wage Increases in California Counties and Municipalities

Many California employees received a raise on January 1, 2019 when the state increased the minimum wage to $12 per hour for large employers (26 employees or more) and $11 per hour for small employers (25 employees or fewer). Effective July 1, 2019, several counties and municipalities in California are adding to these minimum wage increases. The amount of the increase varies by city and county, and some local governments make a distinction between large and small employers. Hotel workers in places like Long Beach, the County and City of Los Angeles, and Oakland are entitled to wages significantly higher than the minimum wage for other types of employees. The following chart summarizes these changes. Continue Reading

New York State Legislature Enacts Sweeping Changes to Combat Sexual Harassment

On June 19th, the New York State Senate and Assembly voted to pass omnibus legislation greatly strengthening protections against sexual harassment. While the bill, SB 6577, is still waiting for the Governor’s signature, Governor Cuomo supported the legislation and plans to sign the bill when it is sent to his desk. The legislation is the product of two legislative hearings that took place early this year, inspired by a group of former legislative staffers who have said they were victims of harassment while working in Albany, NY. The bill includes several provisions directly affecting private employers. These provisions include: Continue Reading

NLRB Limits Union Access Rights to “Public Spaces” of Employers

On June 14, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued an important decision clarifying whether and when an employer may lawfully exclude union organizers from its privately owned public spaces. Under then extant Board caselaw, where an employer had invited the public to enter or use space on its private property, the employer could not lawfully exclude union organizers from entering and using that same “public space” because that exclusion was considered to be unlawful discrimination in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act). The Board’s decision in UPMC, 368 NLRB No. 2, rejects this generalized “public area” doctrine, redefines what is and isn’t unlawful discrimination for the purposes of determining a union’s right of access to an employer’s public spaces and, broadens employer’s legal options under the NLRA.  Continue Reading

It’s OK to Be Different- NLRB Rules That Union Represented Employees Are Not Entitled to Midterm Bargaining Over Same Paid Holiday Granted to Non-Represented Employees

Does an employer automatically engage in unlawful discrimination when it grants an improved benefit to its non-union employees but withholds the improvement from its union employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement? In a recent decision, Merck, Sharp & Dohme Corp, 367 NLRB No. 122, issued on May 7, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said No. This is an important decision because it clearly delineates the difference between mere disparate treatment (which is lawful) and actionable discrimination (unlawful) and brings clarity to an employer’s duty to bargain over changing working conditions during the term of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Continue Reading

Supreme Court Rules That Employers Can Be Forced To Defend Against Actions Under Title VII Not Properly Brought Before the EEOC

Resolving a circuit split regarding the jurisdictional nature of Title VII’s charge-filing requirement—the statutory requirement that an employee who alleges that he or she has been subjected to unlawful treatment is required to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), or an equivalent state or local agency, prior to bringing suit in court—the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion on June 3, 2019, penned by Justice Ginsburg, holding that “a rule may be mandatory without being jurisdictional, and Title VII’s charge-filing requirement fits that bill.” This decision—which affirms a recent Fifth Circuit decision, is consistent with rulings from the First, Second, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and D.C. Circuits, but overrules Fourth and Tenth Circuit precedent—has potentially significant implications for unwary employers when defending themselves in a Title VII lawsuit. Continue Reading

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