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 →
COVID-19 has shifted the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) longstanding policy that representation elections should generally be conducted manually. In a recent example of COVID-19’s impact on representation elections, the Acting Regional Director for Region 10 issued a Decision and Direction of Election on January 15, 2020 requiring an election petitioned for by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (“the Union”) occur by mail-ballot because of the “undeniable presence of COVID-19 both inside and outside the Employer’s facility.” The employer, Amazon.com Services LLC, requested a manual election – still the applicable presumption – while the Union requested an election by mail ballot. In deciding that the election should take place by mail, the Regional Director cited guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control related to general elections and guidance issued from the Office of the General Counsel as to what protocols should be used for a manual election during the pandemic. But the most significant guidance the Regional Director relied on in mandating a mail-ballot election was the framework developed by the NLRB in the Aspirus Keweenaw case.
Framework Established by NLRB in Aspirus Keweenaw
In Aspirus Keweenaw, the NLRB reviewed a decision from the Regional Director for Region 18 that a mail-ballot election should occur at a hospital in Michigan over a manual ballot election because of “the extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The NLRB began its analysis by acknowledging that there is a presumption in favor of manual elections, particularly as statistics show that participation is generally higher for manual elections. However, the NLRB recognized that its approach to elections must evolve based on the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for more defined parameters as to when a mail-ballot election is appropriate based on changing pandemic conditions and in consideration of its preference for manual elections. Specifically, the NLRB laid out six situations that will normally suggest a mail-ballot election:
The Agency officer tasked with conducting the election is operating under “mandatory telework” status;
Either the 14-day trend in the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county where the facility is located is increasing or the 14-day testing positivity rate in the county where the facility is located is 5% or higher;
The proposed manual election site cannot be established in a way that avoids violating mandatory state or local health orders relating to maximum gathering size;
The employer fails or refuses to commit to abide by the GC Memo 20-10 protocols;
There is a current COVID-19 outbreak at the facility or the employer refuses to disclose and certify its current status; or
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 President Trump’s Administration comes to an end, 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. This complimentary webinar series will focus on a host of the most challenging and timely issues facing employers, examining past trends and looking ahead at the issues most likely to arise.
To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below. To register for the entire 2021 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will register you. If you missed any of our past programs from our annual Labor and Employment Webinar Series, click here to subscribe to our YouTube channel to access those webinars.
After passing out of committee earlier this summer, two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board – one Republican, one Democrat – were recently confirmed by the full Senate.
Even though both nominees have Board experience, the confirmation votes reflected the ongoing partisan contention that has in recent years surrounded the labor agency, with Republican nominee Marvin Kaplan confirmed by a vote of 52-46 without a single Democrat voting in support, while just seven Republicans crossed over to confirm Lauren McFerran, who was confirmed 53-42. Kaplan is currently serving on the Board, while McFerran was previously confirmed in 2014 and served until last December, when her five-year term expired.
Traditionally, three board seats are held by members of the president’s political party while two are set aside for the opposition party. Thus, last week’s confirmations Continue reading →
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented response thereto by various layers of government has caused many, if not most businesses to rearrange their hours or operations, lay off employees or even to cease doing business altogether. Given this seemingly unprecedented situation, many unionized employers may wonder what duty they have to bargain over specific changes to their ways of doing business.
General Counsel Peter Robb recently provided some helpful guidance summarizing prior NLRB case law on this timely topic. The first portion of Robb’s memo (GC Memo 20-04) summarizes various Board decisions touching on an employer’s duty to bargain during public emergency situations, such as hurricanes, 9/11 and other emergencies.
By way of background, because an employer’s decision to lay off bargaining unit employees is a mandatory subject of bargaining, an employer is generally obligated to bargain with an incumbent union with respect to both the decision to lay off and the effects of that decision. However, an exception to that rule exists if an employer can demonstrate that economic exigencies compel prompt action. Although the Board has consistently maintained a narrow view of this exception, unforeseen extraordinary events which have a major economic effect may fit within it.
For example, in Port Printing & Specialties, 351 NLRB 1269 (2007), the Board ruled Continue reading →
On February 26, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) published its final joint employer rule in the Federal Register, which tightens the test used to analyze whether workers are jointly employed by affiliated businesses. The final rule is intended to roll-back the stricter Obama-era standard that business interests have longed to overturn.
History of Joint Employer Rule
Under longstanding NLRB precedent, two employers could be joint employers if they shared or codetermined matters governing the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment. Until 2015, to be a joint employer, a business had to exercise “direct and immediate” control over these employment matters
Then, the Obama-era NLRB overruled the old standard in its decision in Browning-Ferris, and substantially relaxed the standards for proving joint Continue reading →