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Keahn Morris is a partner in the Labor and Employment Practice Group in the firm's San Francisco office.

On July 21, 2021, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) issued a 3-1 decision affirming its precedent that displaying banners and a large inflatable rat (“Scabby the Rat”) near neutral employers does not violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or “the Act”).  This decision may come as a disappointment to many employers as the NLRB under the Trump administration had been making efforts to end what many felt was unlawful secondary picketing under the Act.

Continue Reading Scabby Survives Another Trip to the NLRB: Board Reaffirms Rat-and-Banner Displays Targeting Neutral Businesses Are Permissible

This article originally appeared on Law360 on June 25, 2021.

On Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid.  The ruling invalidated a California labor regulation that requires growers to grant union organizers seeking to represent their workers property access, and declared it an unconstitutional taking of the grower’s property in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments.  Several other California laws and decisions sanction similar union trespass onto private property.  For example, numerous state court decisions have granted unions access to private property of employers with whom they have a dispute on the theory that such access is required in order to enable labor to communicate its message to the public and to put economic pressure on the employer.  Likewise, California’s statutes have been applied to grant special protections to labor speech and to bar courts from enjoining union trespass on private property.  See e.g., Ralphs Grocery Co. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 8, 55 Cal.4th 1083 (2012); UFCW, Local 324 v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 83 Cal.App.4th 566 (2000); cf. Waremart Foods v. NLRB, 354 F.3d 870 (D.C. Cir. 2004).[i]  Cedar Point offers a new avenue of attack against such union invasions of an employer’s property and a possible leg up on getting such trespasses enjoined in the future.
Continue Reading SCOTUS Decision May Force Reversal of California Laws Sanctioning Union Trespass

Substantial changes are afoot at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Most notably, these include the firing of the NLRB’s General Counsel Peter Robb and the rescission of ten of Robb’s General Counsel Memoranda. The New Acting General Counsel further ordered the withdrawal of an unfair labor practice complaint against UNITE HERE challenging a pre-recognition neutrality agreement. This latter decision is at odds with guidance provided by the NLRB over the last several months and is certainly indicative of a transformation taking place at the agency under the Biden administration. These changes are discussed in detail below.
Continue Reading New Administration, New Direction as Acting NLRB General Counsel Rescinds 10 General Counsel Memos and Reverses Course on Neutrality Pacts With Unions

On January 25, 2021, the NLRB Division of Advice (“the Division”) released a memo that may indicate a change in the way workers engaged in cannabis activities are covered under federal labor law. Under the NLRA, the right to form and join a union is limited to employees. Agricultural laborers do not have that right under federal law. Despite the fact that many workers in the cannabis industry are often involved in the cultivation and harvesting of a crop, they have typically been considered employees rather than agricultural laborers under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or “the Act”). This recently released advice memo (available here) reverses that interpretation.
Continue Reading NLRB’s Division of Advice Determines Certain Workers in the Cannabis Industry Are Exempt From Federal Labor Law

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine guidance for employers on December 16, 2020, providing answers related to workplace requirements about COVID-19 vaccines. With COVID-19 vaccinations underway in the U.S., the deployment poses complex questions for employers determining whether to mandate vaccines for all employees and how to manage such mandates. Although the EEOC acknowledges that federal employment laws do not prevent employers from following guidelines from public health authorities, the administration of vaccines to employees raises legal issues employers should consider. This article discusses the EEOC’s new guidance and the process required for employers mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their workforces.
Continue Reading EEOC Takes a Shot at COVID-19: Unvaccinated Employees Can be Excluded From the Workplace

When it comes to whether unions have a right to enter an employer’s premises over the employer’s objections, California’s law is the polar opposite of the National Labor Relations Act and the law in most other states.  In California, unions generally have special access rights that nonlabor parties do not have.  Unions are given preferential treatment because of the state’s union-friendly public policies.  However, this may soon change due to the Supreme Court’s recent order granting a hearing in Cedar Point Nursery et. al. v. Hassid where the issue presented is:
Continue Reading SCOTUS to Consider Whether California Unconstitutionally “Takes” Private Property When It Compels Employers to Grant Union Access to Private Property

On September 18, the Board’s GC issued GC Memo 20-14, entitled Summaries of Advice Merit Determinations Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 Issues for the purpose of giving the public a better understanding of the GC’s approach to COVID-19 related issues.  What emerges is a clear message—while the pandemic can impact certain obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, the agency will not permit employers to use the pandemic as a sword to engage in unlawful conduct.  Under Agency guidelines, advice memos in such “go” cases cannot be released until the case is closed.  Accordingly, rather than release actual advice memos, the GC’s September 18 memo contained a series of anonymous case summaries in which an employer’s actions relating to the virus were deemed unlawful.  Over the past several months, we have reported on advice memos from the NLRB General Counsel’s Division of Advice finding various employer actions in dealing with COVID-19 issues to be permissible under the NLRA (see our recent postings here and here).  The GC’s latest memo includes a list of these earlier advice memos in which an employer’s COVID-19 conduct was found lawful.  What follows is a description of some of the issues and settings rendering these matters meritorious and therefore “go” cases.
Continue Reading GC Finds Merit in COVID-19 Related ULP Cases in GC Memo 20-14

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