On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced that he has directed the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate an emergency temporary standard requiring all US companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly before coming to work. In an
We are pleased to share a recent International Employment Lawyer article, “Are US Employers That Don’t Mandate Vaccines Now At Risk?” by Stephanie Priel, Robin Samuel, and Autumn Sharp. The article discusses risks companies that are not mandating COVID-19 vaccines may face, as well as steps those companies can take to meet their health and…
On July 9, 2021, President Biden issued his Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy (EO) (Fact Sheet here) signaling support for severe limitation of post-employment noncompete restrictions–a move likely to add fuel to the fire of states passing laws to limit the use of post-employment noncompetes. The EO Fact Sheet states that the banning or limiting of noncompetes will “[m]ake it easier” for employees to “change jobs[.]” Though employers may balk, given Biden’s campaign promises and support for passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (see our prior blog here), employers should not be surprised.
The EO encourages the Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to exercise the FTC’s statutory rulemaking authority to “curtail the unfair use of non-compete clauses and other clauses or agreements that may unfairly limit worker mobility.” It is uncertain whether that rulemaking will entirely ban or just limit noncompete agreements; focus on restricting noncompetes for all workers or just those considered more vulnerable (such as low wage earners); restrict nonsolicit agreements along with noncompetes; or preempt state law.
The EO also encourages the Attorney General and the Chair of the FTC to consider revising the October 2016 Antitrust Guidance for Human Resource Professionals “to better protect workers from wage collusion” by (as the Fact Sheet explains) strengthening antitrust guidance to prevent the suppression of wages or reduction of benefits through employer collaboration and sharing of wage and benefit information. As we explained in a recent client alert, a push to scrutinize competition issues in labor markets was already in play, tracing back to the 2016 Antitrust Guidance, in which the Department of Justice and FTC alerted companies that “naked” wage-fixing and no-poaching agreements could be prosecuted criminally, and that employers competing to hire or retain the same employees are “competitors” from an antitrust perspective.
Special thanks to our summer associate Brianna Miller for her contributions to this post.
In Trinity Services Group, Inc. v. NLRB, No. 20-1014 (June 1, 2021), the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit recently rejected the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) attempt to prohibit employers from expressing opinions the NLRB considers baseless. In reversing the NLRB, the Court held that the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) only prohibits employer speech containing a threat of reprisal or the promise of benefits, and that expressions which are merely “views, arguments or opinions” are not unlawful.
No threat of reprisal or promise of benefits means the statement–even if not based in fact–is not illegal
The case arose when an employee discovered a mix-up regarding the amount of her accrued paid leave. When she raised the issue with her supervisor, he pinned the blame on the union. The NLRB and the Court both found there was no objective basis for blaming the union rather than the employer for the mix-up.
The Court examined the provisions in Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA, which proscribes certain speech. Section 8(a)(1) makes it unlawful for an employer to “interfere with, restrain or coerce employees” in the rights guaranteed by the Act. The Court also considered the provisions in Section 8(c) which guarantees parties freedom of speech, specifically that “[t]he expression of any views, argument, or opinion…shall not constitute an unfair labor practice.” The Court sought to reconcile the two provisions, and holding that only speech containing a threat of reprisal or promise of benefits is prohibited by the NLRA, while Section 8(c) protects “any” view, argument or opinion. The Court held the statement the NLRB found illegal contained neither a threat of reprisal or the promise of benefit and thus was not illegal. Undeterred by the plain meaning of the word “any,” the NLRB requested the Court to create an exception under Section 8(c) for statements which are “patently false.” The Court rejected that request as contrary to the plain language of the section.
Ordinarily, courts defer to the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) factual findings and its remedial orders given the Board’s broad discretion when fashioning a remedy. However, in the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in RAV Truck & Trailer Repairs Inc. v. NLRB, 997 F.3d 314 (D.C. Cir. 2021), the Court refused to do so.
Sometimes being too persuasive can have a downside, as Peter Robb, former General Counsel of the NLRB can attest. Robb had convinced the NLRB to find an owner had illegally closed his business and had further persuaded the NLRB to order it reopened. Contrary to common practice, the Court refused to rubber stamp the NLRB’s factual findings or to defer to the remedy, stating that the NLRB’s order “does not purport to explain how restoration is even factually possible.” Instead, the Court gave the NLRB a second chance at finding the necessary evidence in the now closed record.
A second court of appeals has refused to adopt a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision declaring an employee’s speech violated the National Labor Relations Act. See Tecnocap, LLC v. NLRB, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 18080 (4th Cir., June 17, 2021). Similarly, in a decision issued earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit vacated an NLRB decision, finding instead it was not unlawful for an employer to make a false statement. See Trinity Servs. Grp. v. NLRB, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 16314 (D.C. Cir., June 1, 2021) (which we blogged about here). In Tecnocap, the Fourth Circuit deemed the NLRB’s decision out of bounds because in its view the employer’s speech “communicated accurate and lawful information,” and did not constitute unlawful “direct dealing” with its employees.
Continue Reading NLRB Loses Second Recent Speech Decision
Special thanks to our summer associate Janice Lin for her contributions to this post.
The Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) saga is over. As predicted (see our blog here), and after the dizzying flutter of proposals, board meetings, emotional public comment, and votes to reject, approve, and withdraw prior amendments (see here, here, here, and here), the Cal/OSHA Standards Board finally voted to align the ETS with CDC guidance at its June 17 board meeting. Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-09-21 in conjunction with the vote, making the new ETS effective immediately.
As a result, California employers – finally – can harmonize their workplace mask and distancing rules with the rules applicable to non-workplace settings.
With Cal/OSHA, the only constant is change. In an unprecedented move, Cal/OSHA has published FAQs explaining and interpreting the proposed amendments to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) before the Standards Board has voted to approve the amendments, with the vote not scheduled to occur until June 17. Cal/OSHA’s publication of these FAQs in advance of the June 17 vote is unusual, and demonstrates the agency’s desire to quickly implement the amendments once the vote occurs. The advance publication of the FAQs is yet another indication of how that vote is expected to go.
And Governor Newsom has weighed in, stating that if the board votes to adopt the proposed amendments, he will sign an executive order on June 17 codifying that vaccinated workers do not have to wear masks-eliminating the normal 10-day administrative review period before the amendments would otherwise take effect. (Anyone who attended Cal/OSHA’s June 3 board meeting-with approximately 8 hours of public comment and a vote that didn’t occur well into the evening-might wonder whether Governor Newsom would be able to take executive action the same day. But the June 17 board meeting starts at 10:00 a.m. Pacific and the agenda limits public comment to 2 hours-leaving ample time for a vote and for Governor Newsom to act.)
The Cal/OSHA Standards Board just released its latest round of proposed amendments to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). If adopted, the new amendments will allow all employees to forgo physical distancing at work regardless of vaccination status. And vaccinated employees will be able to take off their masks, even while indoors. The changes are expected to take effect June 28, but may be implemented sooner.
The proposed amendments represent another dramatic reversal of the workplace rules for California employees, and effectively will relax those rules beyond current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, which still recommends that unvaccinated persons physically distance both indoors and outdoors.
The Standards Board released the new proposed amendments just two days after the board voted to withdraw other revisions to the ETS that were already pending administrative review. We blogged here and here about how the board reversed course at its June 9 meeting, voting to withdraw amendments to the ETS it had approved just days prior at its June 3 meeting.
Now, the Standards Board will consider and vote on the latest amendments on June 17 – so employers should not take any action just yet. As we have seen, the Standards Board can quickly change its positions on ETS amendments.
On June 10, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued updated guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in all workplaces. Though employers in all industries have been waiting for months for OSHA’s expected issuance of Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), OSHA only issued an ETS applicable to healthcare workers, effectively ending the likelihood of COVID-19 emergency standards for other business sectors.
The updated guidance, which largely aligns with current CDC guidance, focuses on encouraging COVID-19 vaccination and protecting unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers. The guidance states that except for workplace settings covered by OSHA’s ETS (for healthcare settings) and mask requirements for public transportation, “most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure in any workplace, or well-defined portions of a workplace, where all employees are fully vaccinated. Employers should still take steps to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces, or well-defined portions of workplaces.”