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Mark Twain famously said: “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” So it is true with reports that employers can breathe easier with the new Trump National Labor Relations Board.

The recent decision in Circus Circus Casinos Inc. is a stark reminder that even as the mid-term elections in the Trump presidency approach, the Obama era, at least at the NLRB, is not over. The decision in Circus Circus imposes on employers an additional administrative step to clear before conducting investigatory interviews during the disciplinary process. After receiving a signal (even if not a direct request) that an employee desires representation, employers may not proceed with interviews until a union representative can be identified and obtained.

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Last month the Seventh Circuit drew a distinction between “commissions” and “bonuses” as those terms are used in the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA) and its implementing regulations. For employers, particularly those in retail, Sutula-Johnson v. Office Depot informs how employers structure, amend and communicate their employee incentive compensation schemes.

Continue Reading Be Careful What You Call It — Commission Plans In Illinois

Recent guidance issued by the NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, the NLRB’s chief prosecutor, is a continuing testament to the NLRB’s impact on the changing legal landscape regarding workplace rules. On June 6, 2018, Peter Robb issued a 20-page Memorandum to the NLRB Regional Offices titled “Guidance on Handbook Rules Post-Boeing.”

Continue Reading The NLRB Issues Useful Guidance Providing Additional Clarity On Work Rules

Employment law practitioners are keenly aware of the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis in single plaintiff disparate treatment cases. Under the analysis, plaintiff must demonstrate (1) status as a member of a protected class, (2) an adverse employment action and (3) a similarly situated person outside the protected class who was treated differently. In a recent decision, Hansen v. Rite Aid, No. A-4750-16T4 (N. J. Super. Ct. App. Div., May 2, 2018), the New Jersey Court of Appeals provided a reminder that it is plaintiff’s burden to prove the alleged comparators are indeed similarly situated.

Continue Reading Reminder That It’s Plaintiff’s Burden To Prove Comparators Are Similarly Situated In Disparate Treatment Cases

Employers facing potential withdrawal liability when closing facilities or withdrawing from underfunded multiemployer pension plans received some welcome news last month. In a noteworthy decision, a federal district court rejected a commonly used formula to calculate withdrawal liability. In the decision in The New York Times Company v. Newspaper and Mail Deliverers’-Publishers’ Pension Fund, et al., Nos. 17-CV-6178-RWS, 17-CV-6290-RWS (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2018), the court held that use of the so-called Segal Blend method of valuing a plan’s unfunded vested benefits to calculate withdrawal liability was a “mistake” and without statutory support under ERISA.

Continue Reading Actuary’s Assumptions Regarding Withdrawal Liability Rejected

Last week, a team of Baker McKenzie partners (Andy Boling, Doug Darch, Bill Dugan and Miriam Petrillo) led a lively roundtable in Deerfield, Illinois on the topic of civility in the workplace.

Attorneys from the EEOC (Greg Gochanour, Regional Attorney for Chicago Office) and the NLRB (Paul Hitterman, Regional Attorney for Region 13 of the NLRB) joined us in leading the discussion. Topics included disciplining employees for uncivil workplace behavior, the enforceability of confidentiality restrictions on witnesses during internal investigations and the NLRB’s newly issued test for reviewing employee work rules.

Here, we share a “top 10” list to highlight the principal takeaways from the program.

Continue Reading Top 10 Takeaways For Managing A Diverse Workplace From Our Civility Seminar

Embracing mediation as a way to avoid litigation is not a sure-fire solution as one employer recently learned. See Unite Here Local 30 v. Volume Services, Inc., No. 16-55528 (9th Cir. January 26, 2018). Mediation is often employed as an alternative method of dispute resolution for its perceived advantages over traditional lawsuits (e.g. it can be quicker, less expensive and less formal than a court-driven process). For these reasons and others, many labor unions and employers frequently choose mediation as an alternative to arbitration.

Continue Reading Mediation Agreement In CBA Leads To Litigation

Manufacturers and retailers that have long relied on a complex web of contractors and subcontractors to supply necessary parts and materials may face a new risk. A recent decision limiting the effectiveness of a no-strike clause in a collective bargaining agreement may create an additional risk to that supply chain, if not to the employer’s own uninterrupted operations.

No-Strike Clauses

  • Most CBAs contain some form of a no-strike clause. They are intended to protect against any interruption to production due to labor unrest during the term of the agreement.
  • The Supreme Court has long deemed a strike in violation of a no-strike clause a breach of the collective agreement which a federal district court could enjoin.
  • BUT — that assumption may no longer be wholly valid as demonstrated by a recent decision by a federal district court. Just Born, Inc. v. Local Union No. 6, Bakery Workers, 2017 BL 466136 (ED Pa. 2017).

Continue Reading Supply Chain Interruption Risk From Mid-Term Strikes

On Wednesday, December 13, Barbara Gressel, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) provided the Chicago Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Committee with an informative presentation about the City of Chicago’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (in effect since July 1, 2017).

Ms. Gressel, who leads the Department’s compliance and enforcement efforts, reviewed the Ordinance’s accrual and carry over rules, as well as the provisions concerning usage caps. The remainder of her presentation involved how the Department will investigate charges, and the administrative process for formally enforcing the ordinance. Here are our takeaways:

Department Investigations Initiated by Employee Complaint

  • Enforcement begins with the filing of a complaint by an employee. Employees may obtain a copy of a blank complaint by visiting the Department’s webpage. The charge must be filled out by hand, or on a typewriter. The complete complaint can be filed by facsimile (fax) or in person.
  • The Department intends to investigate each facially valid complaint on a class-wide basis. It reasons that if one employee is not receiving proper payment, accrual, carryover etc., no employee is. The request for information will be by administrative subpoena.
  • At least initially, the Department intends to attempt to resolve complaints informally. Employers who refuse to meet their obligations during this initial period will be prosecuted for a ordinance violation. Similarly, after the initial familiarization period (expected to last 18-24 months), the Department will use its formal ordinance enforcement process whenever it determines to allege a violation has occurred.

Continue Reading Chicago’s New Sick Leave Ordinance May Leave Some Employers Feeling Ill

In October, we discussed one of the hottest trending class-action claims: the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA). In our alert, we noted that it was not clear whether a plaintiff would need to show a concrete injury to be entitled to damages or whether a mere statutory violation would be sufficient to warrant damages.

On November 21, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on this very issue.

Continue Reading UPDATE Regarding The Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act