Unions have long sought to avoid the NLRB’s election process, relying instead upon so-called “neutrality” agreements to obtain initial recognition by employers and legally enforceable rights to represent and bargain on behalf of previously unrepresented employees.  Although truly neutral pre-recognition “neutrality agreements,” i.e. those calling for an employer to be neutral on the subject of unionization and little more, are lawful, many such agreements go beyond mere neutrality and venture into actual employer support of organizing.  This may render such agreements unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) because they interfere with employees’ rights under the Act.  Indeed, Section 8(a)(2) of the Act declares it impermissible for an employer to support a union’s organizing efforts.  Likewise, Section 8(b)(1)(A) of the Act makes it unlawful for a union to receive such support.
Continue Reading Neutrality and Labor Peace Agreements – When Its Unlawful for an Employer to Be “Too Neutral” as to Union Organizing Under the NLRA

Did an NLRB’s Regional Director abuse her discretion when she directed a mail ballot election instead of an in-person (manual) ballot election during the COVID-19 pandemic?  Though not getting the attention it deserves, this is an extremely important issue going to the very integrity of the Board’s representation process.  Manual balloting has long been the Board’s preferred manner of conducting an election because mail balloting is held under less controlled conditions and, thus, more prone to irregularities.  Moreover, mail ballot elections may result in lower employee election participation.  Most importantly to employers, mail ballot elections also generally favor unions.
Continue Reading The Board Weighs In on the COVID Mail Ballot Controversy

The National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB” or Board”) Division of Advice[1] recently released five memos dealing with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic—concluding in all five that dismissal of the pending unfair labor practice charge (“ULP” or “charge”) against the employer was warranted.  These advice memos come on the heels of a series of advice memos issued by the Division of Advice in July, which also recommended the dismissal of COVID-19-related charges filed against employers.  Although these advice memoranda do not carry the same weight as a Board decision, they shed light on how the regional offices may view these matters going forward and can be used as a roadmap for employers who are undoubtedly navigating similar issues in their businesses during the pandemic.
Continue Reading NLRB Releases More Employer-Friendly COVID Advice

On June 10, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued Bethany College, 369 NLRB No. 98, in which it held that it does not have jurisdiction over matters concerning teachers or faculty at bona fide religious educational institutions.  Bona fide religious educational institutions are those who (1) hold themselves out to students, faculty and the community as providing a religious educational environment; (2) are nonprofit organizations; and (3) are affiliated with, or owned, operated or controlled by a recognized religious organization or with an entity, membership of which is determined, at least in part, with reference to religion.  In Bethany College, the Board also overruled its decision in Pacific Lutheran University, 361 NLRB 1404 (2014), where the Board had concluded it could assert jurisdiction over a religious school and its teachers if the teachers were not held out as performing a specific role in creating or maintaining the school’s religious educational environment.  In overruling Pacific Lutheran on constitutional grounds, the Bethany College Board found that its Pacific Lutheran decision could not be squared with the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent.
Continue Reading The NLRB Rethinks Its Position on When It May Assert Jurisdiction Over Religious Schools in Labor Matters Involving Faculty Members

This article originally appeared on Law360 on January 27, 2020.

The current National Labor Relations Board was extremely kind to employers during 2019, issuing a multitude of precedent-setting decisions and new rules that reversed many of the excesses of the Obama board and returned the National Labor Relations Act to its more neutral legislative intent.

The board’s current composition will change this coming August when member Marvin Kaplan’s term expires. But with the Republicans in control of both the White House and the Senate, at least, through the end of the year, 2020 is shaping up to be another year of decisions and rules that give employers further hope that additional business-friendly decisions are on the way.

These anticipated cases and rule changes include but certainly are not limited to the following.
Continue Reading Expect More Pro-Business Rulings From NLRB This Year

The Trump National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to reshape the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) with new decisions that reverse precedents and undo legal restrictions placed on employers during the Obama administration. Over the past week alone and coming on the heels of the current Board’s issuance of new more employer friendly election regulations, the Board issued three important cases that warrant management’s attention. What follows is a brief summary of these new cases and an explanation of how they are likely to effect the workplace.
Continue Reading Employers May Now Forbid Employees Using Co. Email for Protected Concerted Activities, Forbid Employees from Discussing On-Going Workplace Investigations, and Cease Checking Off Union Dues

On the eve of the holidays, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) delivered an early Christmas present to employers with its issuance of new regulations governing the NLRB election process.  While not scraping the Obama Board’s controversial 2014 election regulations wholesale, the current Board’s new rules moderate the election processing time frames considerably, allow employers to raise issues of supervisory status before an election is held and give employers a greater opportunity to campaign amongst employee voters in an effort to maintain their union free status.  These procedural changes which will become effective in early April 2020 are welcome news for they go a long way towards re-leveling the playing field for employers when they litigate election issues and conduct election campaigns.
Continue Reading Christmas Comes Early for Employers at the NLRB — New Election Procedures That Give Employers a Greater Opportunity to Mount Legal Challenges to Election Petitions and to Effectively Campaign Against Unionization

An employee’s right to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of mutual aid and protection is basic to the National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA) Section 7. Although these concepts, “concertedness” and “mutual aid or protection”, sound similar and are often closely related, they are distinct statutory requirements, each calling for two different inquiries and requiring proof. Whether an employee’s conduct qualifies as “concerted” depends on if and how their actions can be linked to those of their coworkers. In contrast, the concept of “mutual aid or protection” focuses on the goal of concerted conduct, chiefly, whether the employee(s) involved are seeking to improve their conditions of employment or otherwise improve their lot as employees.
Continue Reading The NLRB Continues To Chip Away At Individual Protected Concerted Activity

In The Boeing Company, 365 NLRB No. 154 (2017), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reassessed the standard it would apply when determining the facial validity of otherwise neutral work rules based upon a balancing between a given rule’s negative impact on employee’s ability to exercise their statutory rights and the rule’s connection to an employer’s right to maintain discipline and productivity in the workplace. For the purpose of applying this new balancing standard, the Boeing Board trifurcated all work rules into one of three distinct categories. First, a Category 1 rule is a work rule that does not prohibit or interfere with the exercise of statutory rights or one whose potential impact on statutory rights is relatively slight or outweighed by the business justification associated with the rule. According to Boeing, the maintenance of such rules is to be considered lawful. Next are Category 2 rules, which are neither “obviously” lawful nor unlawful and which may adversely impact NLRA-guaranteed rights. Under Boeing, their lawfulness is to be determined on a case-by-case basis and depends upon whether the rule’s adverse impact on statutory rights is outweighed by the employer’s interest in maintaining the rule. Finally, Category 3 rules are those that on their face prohibit or limit statutory rights and whose impact on statutory rights outweigh the business justifications associated with the rule. Category 3 rules are facially invalid, rendering their mere maintenance unlawful.
Continue Reading NLRB’s Division of Advice Gives “Advice” As to the Application of Boeing — When a Work Rule/Employment Agreement is Facially Valid Under the NLRA in Union and Union Free Workplaces

In a business-friendly decision issued on January 25, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) revised its test for determining whether putative independent contractors are exempt from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). See SuperShuttle DFW, Inc., 367 NLRB No. 75 (2019) (“SuperShuttle”). The Board’s SuperShuttle decision affirmed a 2010 Acting Regional Director’s decision that a group of franchisee airport shuttle operators were independent contractors. In the process, the Board overturned FedEx Home Delivery, 361 NLRB 610 (2014) (“FedEx”), an Obama-era decision that, according to the SuperShuttle Board, “significantly limited the importance of entrepreneurial opportunity” to the NLRB’s independent contractor test. Given this new development, employers should expect that, at least under the NLRA, it will be easier than before to show that a worker should be classified as an independent contractor (instead of an employee).
Continue Reading National Labor Relations Board Issues Decision Overruling Obama-Era Independent Contractor Test: What This Means For (Putative) Employers

In yet another case that impacts both union and non-union employers, the Republican-majority National Labor Relations Board (Board) overruled Obama-era precedent and substantially narrowed what is considered “protected concerted activities” by workers under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in Alstate Maintenance, 367 NLRB No. 68 (January 11, 2019).  In doing so, the Board expressly overturned WorldMark by Wyndham, 356 NLRB 765 (2011), which previously held that a single employee who gripes in a group setting is per se engaged in protected activities under the NLRA without regard to whether the employee is raising a group complaint or seeking to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action.
Continue Reading NLRB Issues Important Decision Regarding What Constitutes “Protected Concerted Activity” in Union and Union-Free Environments Under Federal Labor Law