Employment Law Alert

Employment Law Alert

News and Updates on Employment Law

Tag Archives: NLRA

Ninth Circuit Holds Class Action Waivers Illegal Under the NLRA

Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution
On August 22, 2016, in Morris v. Ernst & Young, LLP, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals joined the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in holding that class action waiver provisions in arbitration agreements governing employment disputes are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act) because these waivers interfere with the right of employees to engage in concerted activity protected by Section 7 of the Act (Section 7). The holdings of these courts are in indirect conflict with an opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the validity of such waivers in the face of a challenge under Section 7. Employers in jurisdictions whose courts have not yet decided this issue, and who employ such waivers in their arbitration agreements or otherwise, should be prepared for attacks on their arbitration agreements by employees seeking to bring class or collective actions or by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).… Continue Reading

Federal Judge Imposes Nationwide Preliminary Injunction on DOL’s New “Persuader” Rule

Posted in Labor
On June 27, 2016, in National Federation of Independent Business v. Perez, Judge Sam R. Cummings of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction precluding the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) from enforcing its recently introduced rule interpreting the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act’s (“LMRDA”) “advice” exemption. 81 Fed. Reg. 15,924 et seq.… Continue Reading

Seventh Circuit Creates Circuit Split, Striking Down Agreement to Arbitrate Employment Claims on an Individual Basis

Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution
On May 26, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued its decision in Lewis v. Epic Systems Corp., becoming the first federal court of appeals to decide that an agreement between an employer and an employee to arbitrate wage-and-hour claims only on an individual basis, as opposed to a class action basis, is unenforceable. The court’s opinion has created a circuit split, as the Second, Fifth, and Eighth Circuits have enforced similar agreements.… Continue Reading

Department of Labor’s New “Persuader” Rule Requires Employers and Labor Relations Consultants to Publicly Disclose Arrangements

Posted in Labor
On March 24, the United States Department of Labor ("DOL") published a final rule imposing new reporting requirements under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”) that could impede employers’ communications with their workers about unions. The rule will take effect on April 25, and will cover arrangements, agreements, and payments between employers and their labor relations consultants – including their attorneys – beginning July 1, 2016.… Continue Reading

The Walls Have Ears: NLRB Invalidates Employer’s Prohibition on Recording in the Workplace

Posted in Policies/Handbooks
Whole Foods Markets received the proverbial ugly holiday sweater in the form of a December 24, 2015, 2-1 decision by the National Labor Relations Board that declared its policy prohibiting recording in the workplace unlawful. The decision in the cases Whole Foods Markets, Inc. and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 919 and Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, focused on two rules contained in Whole Foods’ General Information Guide. The first prohibited the recording of meetings, with the laudable, express goals of encouraging “open communication, free expression of ideas, spontaneous and honest dialogue and an atmosphere of trust.” The only exceptions were when the recording was approved by management or all parties to the conversation consented. The second rule also prohibited the use of a recording device in order to “eliminate a chilling effect on the expression of views that may exist when one person is concerned that his or her conversation with another is being secretly recorded.” Seems fair, right? Not according to the NLRB.… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Upholds Arbitration Agreement Prohibiting Class/Collective Actions and Cautions NLRB to Reconsider Board Policy

Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution
Last week, in Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. NLRB, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld an arbitration agreement requiring employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis, thereby reaffirming its holding in D.R. Horton, Inc. v. NLRB, despite the National Labor Relations Board’s ("NLRB") aggressive attempt to find arbitration agreements unlawful. The case is noteworthy because the court rebuffed the Board’s effort to circumvent D.R. Horton and cautioned the NLRB “to strike a more respectful balance between its views and those of circuit courts” that review them. One wonders whether the NLRB will change its current stance against arbitration agreements that prohibit class/collective actions. Regardless, the Fifth Circuit’s decision helps to settle the current state of the law at the circuit court level that arbitration agreements and class/collective action waivers are lawful under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).… Continue Reading

NLRB Ruling is Problematic for Employer Workplace Investigation Policies

Posted in Labor
The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decided that an employer’s workplace investigations policy, which recommends employees keep an internal investigation confidential, violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) because it interfered with employees' rights to communicate regarding matters affecting terms and conditions of employment. The ruling creates a quandary for employers to maintain effective workplace investigation policies and practices including confidentiality statements in anti-harassment policies. … Continue Reading

NLRB Expands Reach by Altering Joint-Employer Standard

Posted in Labor
Recently, in Browning-Ferris Indus. of Cal., the National Labor Relations Board continued to expand its reach and once again altered decades old law in favor of labor unions, this time by making it easier for unions to hold multiple businesses responsible for bargaining with a single group of workers over employment conditions and terms. The decision has potentially far-reaching implications for companies that enter into staffing arrangements with third parties, including franchisors, who now may have legal obligations to bargain with unions where they never before did.… Continue Reading

NLRB Calls a Timeout in Northwestern Football Players Case

Posted in Labor
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued its long-awaited decision in Northwestern University, a case involving an attempt by scholarship football players to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. About a year-and-a-half ago, in response to the university’s attempt to dismiss a union election petition filed on behalf of the players, a regional director decided that the students were statutory employees who could unionize. The university challenged the regional director’s decision, which set the stage for the Board’s decision.… Continue Reading

NLRB Judge Strikes Down Employee Handbook Confidentiality Policy — Including Protection of Customer and Vendor Data

Posted in Labor
An employee handbook containing policies prohibiting (1) the disclosure of confidential company information, including personnel data, (2) use of the employer’s logo or trademark except as authorized by the company and (3) obstruction and interference with government investigations, including a requirement to notify the company’s human resources representatives or law department and to obtain approval to release information for a government investigation was found to violate Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in Macy’s Inc., JD(NY)-21-15. According to the ALJ’s decision, Macy’s employees when reading the policies could reasonably construe such policies to restrict their rights under Section 7 of the NLRA to engage in protected concerted activity for their mutual aid or protection.… Continue Reading

NLRB General Counsel Issues Memorandum Regarding “Quickie” Election Rule

Posted in Labor
On April 14, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board’s “quickie” election rule took effect (despite pending lawsuits challenging the legality of the rule). Earlier this month, the Board’s general counsel issued a 36-page memorandum to provide guidance on the new rule, which we summarize in some detail below in an effort to help employers navigate these new waters. The memorandum serves as a reminder that non-union businesses should consider implementing a labor relations strategy now so they can effectively, lawfully, and quickly respond to a notice of petition for election if they receive one under the new rule. An in-depth discussion of the general counsel’s memorandum is provided. The highlights are as follows:… Continue Reading

NLRB Rules that Attack on Safety of Employer’s Products is Protected Employee Concerted Activity

Posted in Labor
As previously discussed on the Employment Law Alert, the National Labor Relations Board has taken several pro-union actions and issued many pro-union decisions over the last few years that impact union and non-union businesses alike, which recently include issuing the latest “quickie” election rule and increasing protections afforded to union-related communications made through companies’ e-mail systems. In MikLin Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Jimmy John’s, the Board rendered another pro-union decision, a decision which serves to remind all employers to be mindful of the NLRB when considering employee discipline for disloyalty when the allegedly disloyal acts relate to employee dissatisfaction with working conditions.… Continue Reading

NLRB General Counsel Issues Memorandum Addressing New Arbitral Deference Standard

Posted in Labor
The National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel recently issued a memorandum providing guidance regarding the amount of deference the Board should afford arbitrations and settlements resolving unfair labor practice (ULP) allegations under sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). These sections prohibit interference with employees' rights to engage in protected concerted activities (8(a)(1)) and discrimination against employees for union affiliation (8(a)(3)). The General Counsel’s memorandum was issued to provide guidance in light of the NLRB’s recent decision in Babcock & Wilcox Constr. Co. — a decision that altered decades’ old law by giving the Board greater discretion (1) to initially decide these types of ULP allegations, which had previously been subject to arbitration in the first instance, and (2) to review arbitration decisions concerning such ULP charges. Companies that are negotiating collective bargaining agreements or have such agreements in place and that prefer to arbitrate ULP claims rather than litigate them before the NLRB, should carefully review the General’s Counsel’s memorandum—as should companies settling ULP allegations, as the memorandum deals with settlements as well.… Continue Reading

Businesses Look to Slam Brakes on “Quickie” Election Rule

Posted in Labor
The United States Chamber of Commerce, Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, National Association of Manufacturers, and Society for Human Resource Management have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the National Labor Relations Board seeking to enjoin a final “quickie” election rule that the Board issued last month. The rule, which seeks to expedite the union election process, will negatively impact businesses that do not have proactive labor relations programs in place by effectively stripping them of their statutory and constitutional rights to speak to their workers about labor unions before an election. Absent a postponement, injunction, or some legislative action that trumps the rule, the rule will take effect April 15.… Continue Reading

NLRB Rules Employees “Presumptively Permitted” to Use Employer Email Systems for Statutorily Protected Communications

Posted in Labor
On December 11, 2014, in Purple Communications, Inc. and Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Cases 21-CA-095151, 21-RC-091532, and 21-RC-091584, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board” or “NLRB”) held that “employee use of email for statutorily protected communications on nonworking time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their email systems.”… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Finds President’s NLRB “Recess” Appointments Unconstitutional

Posted in Labor
On June 26, 2014, in NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided that President Obama’s purported “recess” appointments of National Labor Relations Board members on January 4, 2012 violated the Constitution because the Senate was not on a break of “sufficient length” when the President appointed them, and thus the President could not dispense with Senate consent of the appointments. The decision calls into question hundreds of NLRB rulings between January 4, 2012 and August 7, 2013, when a new Board was finally sworn in with Senate approval of the President’s appointments. Those rulings include numerous pro-union decisions dealing with dues checkoff clauses, confidentiality policies and practices, employee social media activities, conduct during bargaining unit elections and workplace investigations. More globally, the decision ends an arduous debate as to the meaning of the words “[v]acancies that may happen during the Recess” in the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause.… Continue Reading

College Football Players Can Unionize Says NLRB Regional Director

Posted in Labor
Did you know that college football players are not “primarily students”? Well, not if the students are football players on regimented schedules, who receive grant-in-aid scholarships to play football from which their school profits, according to a Regional Director at the National Labor Relations Board. In a decision issued yesterday, the Regional Director concluded that Northwestern University football players who receive scholarships are statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act, and, therefore, directed an election for the players to decide whether to unionize in light of a petition a union recently filed to represent them. The Regional Director relied upon the common law definition of an employee in rendering his decision, finding that: the school’s interest in the students initially stems from their football talents; letters the University sends them offering scholarships to play football (called tenders) are contracts; the school controls the players through rules and regimented workout and playing schedules; and the scholarships the players receive are compensation that cover living expenses. The Regional Director distinguished the case from Board precedent finding that graduate students are not statutory employees, by reasoning that football is unrelated to the students’ academics unlike the case involving the graduate students.… Continue Reading

NLRB to Revisit “Quickie” Election Rule

Posted in Labor
As if the groundhog's recent proclamation of six more weeks of winter were not bad enough, the National Labor Relations Board announced yesterday that it again is proposing a rule that could expedite the union election process. The proposed "quickie" election rule is identical to a rule the Board proposed in June 2011 and (once again) is open to a 60-day public comment period. The Board will consider comments to the prior rule in addition to those it receives by April 7, 2014. Replies to the comments are due a week later on April 14, 2014.… Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Meaning of “Changing Clothes” Under FLSA

Posted in Wage & Hour
On January 27, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., which clarified what it means for an employee to be "changing clothes" under Section 3(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). The Court's decision will affect unionized workplaces, where employees change in and out of (or "don and doff") protective or sanitary clothing in connection with their jobs.… Continue Reading

NLRB Accepts Rejection of its Union Poster Rule

Posted in Labor
Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board announced it would not challenge two decisions by United States Courts of Appeals that struck down a Board rule requiring private sector employers to post a notice about employee rights to unionize. As previously reported, the NLRB issued the rule over two years ago, but decided to postpone it indefinitely due to legal challenges by business groups. Yesterday's announcement signifies the Board's acceptance that the rule is unenforceable, and accordingly, private sector employers have no legal obligation to post the notice.… Continue Reading

D.R. Horton Reversed by 5th Circuit

Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution
On December 3, 2013, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the National Labor Relations Board (the "Board" or "NLRB") in D.R. Horton, Inc. and held that D.R. Horton's arbitration agreement prohibiting class or collective action claims did not violate the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"). In so holding, the court found that the Board did not give proper weight to the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA").… Continue Reading

A New Jersey Federal Court Holds that the Stored Communications Act Applies to “Wall Posts” on Facebook

Posted in Privacy
The Federal Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq. ("SCA"), makes it unlawful to, among other things, "intentionally access[] without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided." Violators are subject to imprisonment and fines, and the statute expressly authorizes a civil action for damages, injunctive relief and attorneys fees. A federal court in New Jersey has now held that the statute may apply to those who access information posted by a Facebook account holder on his or her Facebook "wall." The defendant-employer in the case, Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corp. ("MONOC"), was able to avoid liability under the SCA because the plaintiff could not establish that her employer violated the "without authorization" component of the statute. Ehling v. Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corp. But the case puts employers on notice that they must tread carefully in this area.… Continue Reading

NLRB Judge Finds Class Waiver Provision in Mandatory Arbitration Agreement Violates NLRA

Posted in Labor
Last week, a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge (the "ALJ") found that a Missouri cellphone retailer violated the National Labor Relations Act (the "NLRA") by requiring, as a condition of employment, its sales representative employees to enter into arbitration agreements mandating that all employment disputes be subject to individual arbitration. In doing so, the ALJ rejected the employer's argument that the Supreme Court's recent decision in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 133 S. Ct. 2304 (2013), supported enforcement of the arbitration agreement. In American Express Co., the Court held that class action waivers in arbitration agreements are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), even when the plaintiff's cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim is prohibitively expensive.… Continue Reading