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 →
Earlier this week, on January 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the release of its final rule revising and updating its regulations interpreting joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to DOL, “The final rule provides updated guidance for determining joint employer status when an employee performs work for his or her employer that simultaneously benefits another individual or entity, including guidance on the identification of certain factors that are not relevant when determining joint employer status.” The DOL published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on April 9, 2019, and received over 12,000 comments within the 30-day comment period. The final rule becomes effective on March 16, 2020, 60 days after publication in the Federal Register today, January 16, 2020.
As a threshold matter, under the FLSA, an employee working for one company may be found to be the joint employee of a second, independent company, depending on the nature and extent of control over the employee’s work. Joint employer status is important for numerous reasons, including the fact that a joint employer can be held joint and severally liable for FLSA wage and hour obligations. In 1958, DOL published an interpretive regulation, 29 C.F.R. § 791, explaining that joint employer status depends on whether multiple persons are “not completely disassociated” or “acting entirely independently of each other” with respect to the employee’s employment.
Specifically, the regulation provided three situations where two or more employers are generally considered joint employers: (1) where there is an arrangement between the employers to share the employee’s services (e.g., to interchange employees); (2) where one employer is acting directly or indirectly in the interest of the other employer (or employers) in relation to the employee; or (3) where the employers are not completely disassociated with respect to the employment of a particular employee and may be deemed to share control of the employee, directly or indirectly, by reason of the fact that one employer controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the other employer. The DOL issued its NPRM out of concern that Continue reading →
During a recent conference at New York University, NLRB General Counsel, Peter Robb, hinted at the forthcoming restoration of more than fifty years of precedent allowing employers to cease withholding union dues after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement containing the so-called “dues check-off” provision.
As reported by Law360, Robb referred to the 2015 Obama-era decision overturning that precedent as “misguided,” and stated further: “I think unless there’s clear language that the dues check-off should continue, it shouldn’t.” Prior to that 2015 decision, the Board had, since 1962, consistently held that dues check-off provisions, which implement union security provisions by providing for the automatic deduction of union dues, could be cancelled by employers upon contract expiration. See Bethlehem Steel Co., 136 NLRB 1500 (1962).
Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) returned to its long-standing independent-contractor standard, reaffirming its adherence to the traditional common-law test. In deciding SuperShuttle DFW, Inc. on January 25, 2019, the Board voted 3-1 along party lines to overturn the 2014 Obama-era ruling in FedEx Home Delivery. In that case, the Board modified the applicable test for determining independent-contractor status by “significantly limit[ing] the importance of [a worker’s] entrepreneurial opportunity.” Specifically, the Board in FedEx created a new factor – “rendering services as part of an independent business” – and made entrepreneurial opportunity merely one aspect of that factor. However, in its Friday decision, the Board found that FedEx impermissibly altered the common-law test, and clarified the essential role entrepreneurial opportunity plays in its determination of independent-contractor status.
In SuperShuttle, the Board analyzed the issue of whether franchisees who operate shared-ride vans for SuperShuttle Dallas-Fort Worth are employees covered under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or independent contractors. Shuttle van drivers for SuperShuttle sought to unionize at Dallas-Forth Worth airport, but the protections of the NLRA do not extend to independent contractors. The Acting Regional Director, in making her decision before the 2014 FedEx case, applied the traditional common-law test and found that SuperShuttle met its burden in establishing that the franchisees are independent contractors and not employees. After overturning FedEx and applying the common-law test, the Board affirmed the Acting Regional Director’s decision.
To start, the Board explained that the inquiry into whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor has traditionally depended on the common-law agency test, which involves the application of Continue reading →