The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has issued its 2023 Rule related to union representation elections. Representation petitions can be filed by employees, unions, or employers and ask the NLRB to conduct an election to determine whether employees wish to be represented by a union in collective bargaining.
The 2023 Rule reverses many of the provisions in the NLRB’s 2019 Rule which extended the timeline that the parties had to conduct an election. The 2019 Rule gave rise to extensive litigation resulting in the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. striking down significant portions of the rule. The NLRB had already rescinded the struck down provisions of the 2019 Rule, but the 2023 Rule makes additional changes, essentially returning the election process to the 2014 Rule. The NLRB says that the 2023 Rule “will meaningfully reduce the time it takes to get from petition to election in contested elections and will expedite the resolution of any post-election litigation.”
The 2023 Rule includes numerous differences from the 2019 Rule, including: Continue reading →
Over the past three months, the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) has more actively scrutinized the use of severance agreements that contain confidentiality clauses which might prevent employees from sharing information about their terms of employment. This was particularly evident in the Board’s recent decision in McLaren Macomb, 372 NLRB No. 58 (2023), which we wrote about here. In McLaren Macomb, the Board ruled that that overly broad non-disparagement and confidentiality provisions included in severance agreements offered to certain employees violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act).
The Board’s General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, provided further clarification on the meaning of McLaren Macomb in a memorandum that was issued on March 22, 2023. Below are the most important takeaways from that memorandum.
Over the last few years, we have seen states enact various restrictions on confidentiality and nondisparagement clauses in employment agreements. These changes were made in the wake of the #MeToo movement and in an effort to reduce perceived barriers to workers’ ability to raise claims for unlawful conduct in the workplace.
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that a severance agreement containing nondisparagement and confidentiality provisions is unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The main issue was whether the employer violated the NLRA by offering a severance agreement to 11 bargaining unit employees it permanently furloughed. The agreement broadly prohibited the employees from making statements that could disparage the employer. The agreement also prohibited the employees from disclosing the terms of the agreement.
In examining the language of the severance agreement at issue, the Board ultimately concluded that the nondisparagement and confidentiality provisions “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees’ exercise of Section 7 rights.” The Board reasoned that because the agreement conditioned the receipt of severance benefits on the employee’s acceptance of the unlawful provisions, the respondent’s proffer of the agreement violated the NLRA.
The legal landscape facing employers seems as difficult to navigate as it has ever been. Keeping track of the ever-changing patchwork of federal, state and local laws governing the workplace may often seem like a full-time job whether you are a human resources professional, in-house attorney or business owner. Change appears to be the one constant. As we enter Year 3 of President Biden’s Administration, employers will continue to closely track the changes taking place at the NLRB, the DOL and the EEOC. At the same time, a number of states will continue introducing new laws and regulations governing workplaces across the country, making it more important than ever for employers to pay attention to the bills pending in the legislatures of the states where they operate.
To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below. To register for the entire 2023 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will register you. If you missed any of our programs from the past eight years of our annual Labor and Employment Webinar Series, here is a link to an archive of recordings of those webinars.
As we approach the midway point of the Biden Administration, we will take stock of the lay of the land at Biden’s DOL, reviewing the initiatives the Department and its agencies have focused on in Year 2 and evaluating how they have fared in driving change at DOL, EEOC, NLRB, and OSHA. We will also assess those agencies’ rulemaking, policymaking, and enforcement efforts; make predictions about what employers can expect from the Biden Administration’s DOL in the second half of President Biden’s presidential term; and assess the impact of the mid-term elections.
On October 31, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo sent a memo to all regional directors, officers-in-charge, and resident officers communicating her concerns over electronic monitoring and algorithmic management. The memo highlighted concerns that employers might be able to use those tools to impair or negate employees’ ability to exercise their rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”).
Technological advancements have enabled employers to surveil and analyze employees in increasingly intrusive ways. For example, employers can record workers’ conversations, track their movements with wearable devices, and monitor employees’ computers with keyloggers and software. Employers can also use algorithms to: identify disengaged employees at risk of leaving their employment; suggest career paths for current employees; assist employers through the performance management process; assess personality, aptitude, skills, and perceived “cultural fit;” and even monitor employee efficiency.
The Board has previously recognized that some employer surveilling practices are unlawful. In instances where employees are engaging in protected concerted activity and public union activity – the Board has acknowledged that photographing employees engaging in protected concerted activities is intimidating. An employer’s capacity to surveil its employees is analyzed by balancing its justification for the surveillance versus the apparent risk of interfering with or deterring employee activity.
Surveillance Technologies and Algorithmic Tools impact employees’ rights under Section 7 and Section 8(a)(1) of the Act:
Section 7 of the Act guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.”
Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” of the Act.
Employer can violate Section 8(a)(1) through the following activities:
Instituting new monitoring technologies in response to activity protected by Section 7;
Utilizing technologies already in place to discover that activity, including by reviewing security-camera footage or employees’ social-media accounts;
Creating the impression that it is doing such things; or
Disciplining employees who concertedly protest workplace surveillance or the pace of work set by algorithmic management.
As the definition of a joint employer shifts with each change in Administration, so too does the holding of Browning-Ferris – a case that has been fluctuating between the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (“D.C. Circuit Court”) for nearly ten years.
In 2013, the Sanitary Truck Drivers and Helpers Local 350, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the “Union”) kicked off this almost decade-long controversy by petitioning the NLRB for representation of workers that it asserted were joint employees of Leadpoint Business Services and Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (“BFI”). Since then, the NLRB and the DC Circuit Court have issued numerous and, more often than not, contradictory rulings, culminating with this most recent decision from the D.C. Circuit Court. Here, the Court challenged the Trump Administration’s NLRB’s reasoning that BFI was not a joint employer using what the NLRB termed “a clear rule of law requiring proof of direct and immediate control” that had been in place “for at least 30 years.” Essentially, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the NLRB’s ruling because “the [NLRB] made multiple overlapping errors” in its analysis, which the Court asserted failed to support the NLRB’s ultimate decision.
Timeline of the Case
To better understand the D.C. Circuit Court’s most recent decision, below is a timeline of the prior decisions and related action from the NLRB related to the joint employer standard: Continue reading →
Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series
The legal landscape facing employers seems as difficult to navigate as it has ever been. Keeping track of the ever-changing patchwork of federal, state and local laws governing the workplace may often seem like a full-time job whether you are a human resources professional, in-house attorney or business owner. Change appears to be the one constant. As we enter Year 2 of President Biden’s Administration, employers will continue to closely track the changes taking place at the NLRB, the DOL and the EEOC. At the same time, a number of states will continue introducing new laws and regulations governing workplaces across the country, making it more important than ever for employers to pay attention to the bills pending in the legislatures of the states where they operate.
To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below. To register for the entire 2022 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will register you. If you missed any of our programs from the past seven years of our annual Labor and Employment Webinar Series, here is a link to an archive of recordings of those webinars.
2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series – Program Schedule
At long last, OSHA has revealed its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing emergency regulation. The Federal Register site has updated to show the pre-publication package, which is set to run officially in the Federal Register tomorrow, November 5th. The 490-page package includes the Preamble and economic analysis of the regulation, as well as the regulatory text. The regulatory text begins on PDF page 473. Also here is a Fact Sheet about the ETS issued simultaneously by the White House.
We are extremely pleased to report that the rule aligns very well with positions for which CMC’s Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition advocated to OSHA and OMB on the most significant topics, like the responsibility for the cost of COVID-19 testing and a delayed implementation date, as well as very narrow record-preservation requirements, grandfathering of prior vaccine-verification efforts, and other elements. OSHA and the White House clearly listened to our views and the compelling rational we put forward for these positions, making the rule a much better, more effective and less burdensome one for employers.
In the meantime, below is a detailed summary of the rule:
What is the stated purpose of the regulation?
The ETS is “intended to establish minimum vaccination, vaccination verification, face covering, and testing requirements to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in the workplace, and to preempt inconsistent state and local requirements relating to these issues, including requirements that ban or limit employers’ authority to require vaccination, face covering, or testing, regardless of the number of employees.”
Who is covered?
As the president signaled in his announcement and action plan from September 9, the ETS applies only to employers with 100 or more employees, and the rule does make it explicit that the way you count those employees is on a company–wide basis, not establishment-by-establishment.
Last week, National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) Member William Emanuel’s term expired. His Democrat replacement, David Prouty, who was confirmed by the Senate on July 28 (along with another Democrat nominee, Gwynne Wilcox), ensures a 3-2 Democrat majority at the agency for the first time in almost four years. As usually occurs when there is a change in the composition and control of the Board, this shift portends a shift in policy.
A recent labor and employment conference held in Big Sky, Montana and attended by many current and former government officials provided a glimpse into several issues that will undoubtedly be subject to reexamination as the new Democrat majority takes control. One interesting panel featured current (Republican) Member John Ring and former (Democrat) Chair Wilma Liebman, moderated by former (Republican) Chair Philip Miscimarra.
During her remarks, former Chair Liebman noted three cases/issues she declared “need to be reversed” by the new Democrat majority. Liebman first noted PCC Structurals, Inc., a 2017 Board decision that overruled a prior 2011 ruling by the former Democrat majority (Specialty Healthcare) and reinstated the traditional community of interest standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit in union representation cases.
A return to the Specialty Healthcare standard would make it easier for unions to narrow the scope of proposed bargaining units, which can make a significant difference in union organizing efforts. In general, according to one recent review by Bloomberg Law, Continue reading →