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It is customary to read of employees claiming retaliation against their employer. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Bator v. District Council 4, Graphic Communications Conference represents the almost unheard of — employees claiming retaliation at the hands of their union instead.

In Bator, union members simply wanted

The “days of boys will be boys” must end, said Circuit Judge Brown in Consolidated Communications, Inc. v. NLRB, 837 F.3d 1, 18 (D.C. Cir. 2016), a case involving strike misconduct. Heeding her directive, on July 21, 2020, the three grown “boys” at the NLRB decided that profane outbursts occurring during otherwise protected activities could be cause for termination. General Motors LLC, 369 NLRB No. 127 (2020). In the past, the NLRB has allowed some leeway for impulsive behavior of an employee when such misconduct is part of the “res gestae” of an employee’s protected activity. See, e.g., KHRG Employer LLC, 366 NLRB No. 22 (2018) (setting forth relevant test). But no more. Now, special rules will not apply to employees who violate an employer’s otherwise lawful rule mandating civility in the workplace just because the violation was part of the res gestae of a protected activity. This is good news for front line supervisors and managers who had to endure abusive conduct solely because it occurred during a labor-management meeting or in some other form of protected concerted activity.

Continue Reading NLRB Says, “#*!%@*” Could Get You Fired

A CEO who becomes entangled in human resources functions by terminating an employee in a distant locale could expose himself to personal jurisdiction (and personal liability) there, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently held in Urquhart-Bradley v. Mobley, No 19-7716 (D.C. Cir. June 30, 2020).

The message to executives is clear: a termination conversation could count as sufficient contacts for purposes of personal jurisdiction, even if the employee being terminated is in another state and even if the conversation itself was via telephone and not in person. In Urquhart-Bradley, a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Srinivasan, Chief Judge, Garland, and Millett, Circuit Judges) joined a list of courts that have refused to apply the “fiduciary shield” doctrine, which provides that a nonresident corporate agent generally is not individually subject to a court’s jurisdiction based on acts undertaken on behalf of the corporation. Where the fiduciary shield does not apply, employers are cautioned to leave termination conversations to HR or in-house counsel to keep executives from being haled into court in another jurisdiction.


Continue Reading Message From Courts To CEOs: Stay In Your Lane

On June 23, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) ruled that newly-represented employees can be disciplined under existing disciplinary policies even if no bargaining has occurred. 800 River Road Operating Company, Inc., 369 NLRB No. 109 (2020). For the first eighty years of the National Labor Relation Act’s existence, this had been the law of the land. A surprise decision four years ago in Total Security Management Illinois, 364 NLRB No. 106 (2016), upended this rule by requiring an employer to bargain with its employees’ newly certified representative (union) before “serious” discipline could be imposed. The 800 River Road decision returned an employer’s bargaining obligation to that historical and long-standing status – discipline consistent with an existing disciplinary policy is permissible even if the employer has not bargained about the discipline with the employees’ representative. The 800 River Road decision places a premium on well-crafted employee handbooks and disciplinary policies and a solid record retention policy to demonstrate the employer’s record of enforcement.

The decision is only the most recent decision in the long-running debate over the proper interpretation and application of the unilateral change doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court in NLRB v. Katz, 363 U.S. 736 (1962). In Katz, the Court held that upon commencement of a bargaining relationship, employers “are required to refrain from making a material change regarding any [mandatory] term or condition of …employment…unless notice [of the change] and an opportunity to bargain is provided to the union.” (Slip op.3). Immediately following this sweeping generalized holding, employers ceased providing annual wage increases under existing compensation policies. The NLRB responded by creating the “dynamic status quo” policy. The dynamic status quo exemption to the Katz rule is applied when an employer’s practice or the policy itself becomes a term or condition of employment.


Continue Reading Order Restored, No Duty to Bargain Before Employee Disciplined

Last week the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a National Labor Relations Board’s decision involving Weingarten rights, the application of its Wright-Line analysis, and a witness credibility determination. These core principles are no doubt headliners of the NLRB’s Big Top. In one fell swoop, the lion bit the lion tamer, the elephant tossed the mahout, and the trapeze artist lost his grip and came crashing down. Circus Circus Casinos, Inc., v NLRB, No. 18-1201 (June 12, 2020). This is the second recent decision tightening the Wright-Line analysis and will likely result in fewer discharged employees being reinstated. See our August 2019 Alert. “NLRB Holds Pretext Finding Standing Alone Insufficient.”

Continue Reading NLRB Tumbles From High-Wire in Circus Circus Dispute

Addressing union organizing in the workplace has bedeviled employers since the adoption of the National Labor Relations Act. The National Labor Relations Board has historically permitted employers to ban employees from soliciting co-workers during working time. No solicitation policies have been narrowed and refined over the years, as demonstrated by the Board’s holding in Essex International, Inc., 211 N.L.R.B. 749 (1974). Essex distinguished between policies that prohibit solicitation during “working time” (permissible) and those that prohibit solicitation during “working hours” (invalid).

In Wynn Las Vegas, LLC, 369 NLRB No. 91 issued last week, the NLRB broadened the definition of solicitation to include urging a co-worker to vote “yes.” The Wynn Las Vegas decision reverted to the Board’s traditional interpretation and acknowledged the NLRB’s failure to obtain court approval for its narrower meaning.


Continue Reading NLRB Broadens Definition of “Solicitation,” Expanding Conduct That May Be Deemed Unprotected

On May 20, 2020, Chicago passed the “COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance,” making it illegal for employers with employees in the City of Chicago to retaliate against employees who stay home: to follow public health orders related to COVID-19, to quarantine because of COVID-19 symptoms, or to care for an individual ill with COVID-19. Enacted as an amendment to Chicago’s Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, the Anti-Retaliation Ordinance prohibits employers from terminating, demoting, or taking other adverse action against employees who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.

What do I need to know?

Under the Ordinance, an employer cannot terminate, demote, or take any other adverse action against an employee for obeying an order issued by Mayor Lightfoot, Governor Pritzker, or the Chicago Department of Public Health (or, in the case of subsections (2) through (4) below, a treating healthcare provider) requiring the employee to:

  1. Stay at home to minimize the transmission of COVID-19;
  2. Remain at home while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or while being sick with COVID-19;
  3. Obey a quarantine order issued to the employee (to keep an employee who has come into contact with an infected person separate from others);
  4. Obey an isolation order issued to the employee (to separate an employee with COVID-19 from others); or
  5. Obey an order issued by the Commissioner of Health regarding the duties of hospitals and other congregate facilities.

In addition, an employer cannot take adverse action against an employee for caring for an individual subject to subsections (1) through (3) above.

The Ordinance became effective on May 20, 2020, and will expire (unless City Council intervenes) when the Commissioner of Public Health makes a written determination “that the threat to public health posed by COVID-19 has diminished to the point that [the] ordinance can safely be repealed.”


Continue Reading Chicago Employers: Allow Your Employees to Obey COVID-19 Public Health Orders, or Else

Recently, Southwest Airlines won a second major victory when Northern District of Illinois Judge Seeger granted its motion to dismiss claims brought under Illinois’ unique Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). Crooms v. Southwest Airlines Co., Case No. 19-cv-2149.

Plaintiffs alleged Southwest violated BIPA by requiring them to scan their fingers when clocking in and out of work without giving them the written notice or receiving their consent as required by BIPA. When initially employed, three of the plaintiffs were represented by the Transportation Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO Local 555 (“TWU”) and were covered by a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). The CBAs at issue provided Southwest had the “right to manage and direct the work force” and included a mandatory four-step grievance and arbitration procedure for resolution of disputes. Plaintiffs were later promoted to Ramp Supervisors, a non-union position and agreed to comply with Southwest’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) Program.  The fourth named plaintiff was never covered by a CBA but was always a party to the ADR Program.


Continue Reading “This Case Does Not Belong In Federal Court” — Southwest Secures Dismissal of Illinois Biometric Lawsuit

On May 1 certain ILLINOIS employers got the green light to begin reopening, after the entry of a modified statewide stay-at-home order. Employers must require employees to maintain social distancing or must wear masks provided by the Company. We take you through the details below:

What does the order say about face covering, social distancing, and hygiene for business employers?

The order’s requirements for business employers depends on the type of business.

Are there rules for non-essential stores?


Continue Reading Reopening in Illinois? Provide a mask!

Government-imposed stay-at-home orders, essential business designations, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and employers’ duty to bargain under the National Labor Relations Act recently collided. To complicate matters, unions have proven very aggressive in their demands for information about employer’s responses to COVID-19.

Many unions have demanded decision bargaining over layoffs, or changes in health