National Labor Relations Act

Setting clear and reasonable standards for taking access to an employer’s private property is high on the National Labor Relations Board’s agenda. Not only is the Board talking about issuing formal rules in this area, but the Agency is cranking out new access decisions left and right, the most recent being its recent decision in Kroger Limited Partnership I Mid-Atlantic, 368 NLRB No. 64, dated September 6, 2019 (Kroger). The issue presented there was whether the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) requires an employer to grant nonemployee union representatives access to its premises to solicit the employer’s customers if it has also permitted other third parties to engage in civic, charitable or commercial solicitations there. The Board answered this question in the negative.
Continue Reading The NLRB Rules That Employers May Bar Union Representatives From Their Property Even Though They Have Allowed Other Third Parties To Engage In Civic, Charitable Or Commercial Solicitations There

The National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA or Act) Section 7 grants to all employees — regardless of whether they are unionized or not — the right to engage in protected concerted activity (PCA).  Accordingly, an employer may not punish or take any adverse action against a worker because they engage in PCA. Such adverse action is an unfair labor practice in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA.  
Continue Reading The NLRB Confirms that Intermittent Strikes in Furtherance of the Same Goal are Unprotected

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

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 NLRB Limits Duty to Bargain Over Disciplinary Actions

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

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 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

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

The National Labor Relations Board has made good on its recent promise to move forward with rulemaking to re-establish the decades-old joint employer standard in place prior to the Board’s 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., d/b/a BFI Newby Island Recyclery, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015) (Browning-Ferris or BFI), petition for review docketed Browning-Ferris Indus. of Cal. v. NLRB, No.16-1028 (D.C. Cir. filed Jan. 20, 2016).  On Sept. 13, the Board announced that it is issuing a proposed rule (to be published in the Federal Register on September 14, 2018) to establish an updated standard for determining joint employer status under the National Labor Relations Act.  Under the proposed rule, “[a]n employer, as defined by Section 2(2) of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act), may be considered a joint employer of a separate employer’s employees only if the two employers share or codetermine the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction.”  Notably, the Board’s proposed rule clarifies that a putative joint employer “must possess and actually exercise substantial direct and immediate control over the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment in a manner that is not limited and routine.”  No doubt relieved to see a return to the pre-BFI standard, employers will be further delighted to discover that under the proposed rule, the Board is “presently inclined to find, consistent with prior Board cases, that even a putative joint employer’s ‘direct and immediate’ control over employment terms may not give rise to a joint-employer relationship where that control is too limited in scope.”
Continue Reading NLRB Issues Proposed Rulemaking on the Joint Employer Standard

On June 6, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB” or “Board”) General Counsel issued Memorandum GC 18-04 (“GC 18-04”), which provides guidance to employers on the legality of certain handbook rules following the Board’s decision in The Boeing Company, 365 NLRB No. 154 (Dec. 14, 2017).  By way of background, in 2004, the Board issued Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia, 343 NLRB 646 (2004), which held that the mere maintenance of a neutral work rule violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or “Act”) if employees would “reasonably construe” the rule to prohibit protected concerted activity under Section 7 of the NLRA.  The Lutheran Heritage test gave no consideration to the employer’s stated justifications for implementing the rule, and produced arbitrary and oftentimes nonsensical Board decisions that appeared to hinge on what the then-Board majority believed an employee may think about a particular rule. In Boeing, the Board overruled the “reasonably construe” standard announced in Lutheran Heritage and issued a new test that balanced the impact a reasonably interpreted, facially neutral rule may have on employees’ Section 7 rights with the employer’s business justifications for the rule.  The Board noted that work rules will likely fall into three categories: Category 1 rules, which will include rules that the Board deems to be facially lawful; Category 2 rules, which will require individualized scrutiny to determine if the rules are lawful; and Category 3 rules, which will be rules designated by the Board as unlawful.  A more detailed discussion of the Boeing case is available here.
Continue Reading National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel Releases Memorandum Providing Guidance On Handbook Rules After Its December 2017 Boeing Decision

On June 5, 2018, in response to a May 29, 2018 letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) Chairman John Ring confirmed that the NLRB intends to move forward with rulemaking on the joint employer standard and that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be issued by the summer. Chairman Ring’s response comes only one month after the NLRB announced in May that it was merely considering rulemaking on the issue.
Continue Reading NLRB Confirms That It Intends To Proceed With Rulemaking On Joint Employer Standard