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
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
On May 13, 2021, the CDC updated its Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. Now, individuals who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, with a handful of exceptions (doctor’s offices, hospitals, planes, trains, airports, and transportation hubs), or unless…
Special thanks to guest contributor Aleesha Fowler.
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