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

On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued its much-awaited decision in General Motors, LLC (GM), 369 NLRB No. 127 (2020), in which it held that abusive or inappropriate workplace speech by employees engaged in protected concerted or union activity (PCA) is not protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) and that employers may discipline workers for engaging in such conduct, provided, the discipline is not shown to be retaliation for protected conduct.
Continue Reading Sticks and Stones…The NLRB Rethinks Its Position on Abusive Workplace Speech by Employees While They Are Engaged in Protected Concerted and Union Activities

Most employers wrestling with COVID-19 related employment law issues aren’t paying much attention to the labor law issues arising out of the pandemic.  Indeed, because most U.S. employers are non-union, many operate under the mistaken belief that they fall outside the reach of the National Labor Relations Act (Act or NLRA) and don’t have to concern themselves with labor law compliance.  However, the NLRA protects almost all private sector employees regardless of whether they are union-represented or not.  Accordingly, except for those employing agricultural employees or workers covered by the Railway Labor Act, both unionized and union-free employers are subject to the NLRA and must conform their personnel policies, practices and decision-making to the Act.
Continue Reading NLRA “Advice” All Employers Should Consider in a COVID World

Last August, we wrote about three important new rules that the National Labor Relations Board (Board or NLRB) was proposing to issue.  As proposed, the new rules reversed existing Board case handling practices and/or case law and essentially codified certain substantive changes in the Board’s law through the formal rulemaking process.  Because these changes were slated to be the subject of formal rulemaking, once enacted, they could neither be ignored by the Board nor reversed or modified in future Board case decisions.  Rather, in order to change or reverse them, the Agency would be required to go through the formal procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).  Having now passed through the APA’s public notice and comment process, these new rules are now final and scheduled to take effect on July 31.
Continue Reading AFL-CIO Sues the Board Over New Rules – AGAIN

On June 23, the National Labor Relations Board’s (Board or NLRB) issued a decision in Mountaire Farms, Inc., 5-RD-256888 in which the Board granted review of a Regional Director’s decision applying the Board’s contract bar doctrine, finding that the case presented substantial issues warranting the NLRB’s review and announcing its intention to establish a schedule for the filing of briefs on review and inviting amicus briefs.  On July 7, the Board acted on that intention and issued a Notice and Invitation To File Briefs in the case (Notice).
Continue Reading Board Invites Briefs and Signals a Possible Shift in Its Contract Bar Rules

As we previously discussed earlier this month, District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson issued an Order in American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations v. National Labor Relations Board, Civil Case No. 2020-0675, invalidating five of the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB or Board) soon-to-be implemented new elections rules (2019 rules).  Issued in haste on May 30 to head off the Board’s May 31 implementation of the new rules, Judge Jackson’s Order offered little explanation for her decision except to say that she found each of the challenged new election procedure rules unlawful and set them aside because they were “not procedural rules” exempted from the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements.
Continue Reading Judge Jackson Explains the Basis for Her Invalidation of the Board’s Election Regulations

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

Last December, we addressed the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB or Board) new rules applicable to all NLRB-conducted elections.  As then reported, these new rules partially reversed election rules implemented in 2014 and were designed to address many of the concerns raised by the Board’s 2014 rules changes.  Specifically, the Trump Board has repeatedly expressed concern that the timeframe prior to a pre-election hearing was too truncated to allow the parties to adequately prepare for hearing and meet their many regulatory obligations.  Originally scheduled to take effect April 16, 2020, implementation was later postponed and rescheduled to take effect on May 31.
Continue Reading The NLRB Reacts to Court’s Eleventh-Hour Partial Injunction of the Agency’s New Election Rules

From time to time, employers trigger labor disputes when they make unilateral changes in working conditions.  Unions objecting to such changes often complain to the NLRB, claiming a change to be mandatory bargaining subjects and that the employer’s change without prior bargaining violates the NLRA’s Sections 8(a)(5) and (d).
Continue Reading Why, How and When Katz May “Trump” an Expired CBA When It Comes to Making Unilateral Changes — The Relationship Between MV Transportation and Raytheon Network

In Apogee Retail, 368 NLRB No. 144 (2019), the NLRB overruled the Obama Board’s decision in Banner Estrella Medical Center, 362 NLRB 1108 (2015) and held that investigative confidentiality rules that by their terms apply only to investigation participants and last only for the duration of an investigation are categorically lawful because the justifications for such rules are self evident and predictably outweigh the comparatively slight potential for such rules to interfere with the exercise of Section 7 rights.  In this day and age of workplace harassment claims and internal investigations, Apogee was welcome news for employers because it ended the legal requirement that an employer prove that it had a particularized, legitimate and substantial business justification for compulsory confidentiality and because that said justification outweighed employee Section 7 rights in order for such prohibitions to be adjudged lawful.
Continue Reading Keep a Lid on It – The Trump NLRB Reaffirms Employer Ability to Enforce Investigative Confidentiality Rules