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

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

Join us for Part 3 of our webinar series on the USMCA, as we approach entry-into-force of the agreement on July 1, 2020.  In this webinar, “USMCA: Labor Rules and Trade Remedies,” Baker McKenzie experts from the United States, Mexico and Canada will discuss how to prepare for enforcement under the Rapid Response

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

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

In February 2020, the NLRB finally unveiled its long-awaited joint-employer rule governing joint-employer status under the NLRA. The final rule returns the test for determining joint employment to the standard the Board applied for several decades before the 2015 Browning-Ferris decision. The test set forth by the new joint-employer rule provides that a business is a joint employer only if it has “substantial direct and immediate control” over another company’s workers and actually exercises that control. While this is no doubt a welcome relief for employers who routinely contract with subcontractors and staffing companies, it is important to note the limited scope and that this rule does not impact joint-employer tests applied under other employment laws. The proposed rule was initially released in late 2018 and ultimately generated nearly 30,000 public comments (see our coverage here).

Although the rule is an employer-friendly change, employees who are terminated for engaging in protected concerted actives will continue to have a claim for relief against their primary employer. Similarly, union organizing efforts can continue amongst temporary employees as they have for years. Bargaining will continue to occur as it always has between employers and their employees’ union representatives. The labor movement, however, is likely disappointed by the demise of the 2015 Browning-Ferris rule.  For years, unions have chaffed at the prohibition against secondary boycotts contained in the Taft Hartley Act of 1947. The 2015 Browning-Ferris rule allowed a backdoor repeal of a significant portion of the secondary boycott ban with its loose definition of joint employer.


Continue Reading Much Ado About Joint Employers at the NLRB

The 2020 presidential race is well underway in the U.S. Labor policy has been and will continue to be a key talking point for Democratic candidates and President Donald Trump moving into the general election.

In part one of this two-part article, we examine the key labor policy proposals advanced by the leading Democratic contenders

As the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads into the broader economy, human resource professionals are finding that grappling with the consequences are more complicated in union-represented workforces. In a union workforce, the employer must determine what it has already agreed it will do, the extent of its freedom to address the scenarios created by COVID-19, and the legal framework within which it must act. Below we offer several considerations for employers to adopt.

First, examine the collective bargaining agreement. This will allow you to determine the extent of the company’s freedom to act independently and expeditiously. The place to start is to determine management’s right to schedule work, to idle the plant, to send workers home and to lay-off employees. Determine the restrictions, if any, in these rights, such as call-in pay or weekly guarantees.


Continue Reading Managing COVID-19 In A Union Workforce In The US

What has changed

On December 10, 2019, the United States, Canada and Mexico reached an agreement on a revised United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”), which establishes a rapid response labor mechanism (“RRLM”) for dispute resolution for alleged violations of the right of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in these countries. The mechanism allows the US and Canadian governments to make claims against facilities in Mexico for potential violations of these rights, to the extent that the rights are established by Mexican law. The Mexican government may also file a claim for potential violations to these labor rights in the US or Canada, but only if the facility involved is under an enforced order of the National Labor Relations Board or the Canada Industrial Relations Board, respectively. This mechanism cannot be invoked for disputes of this nature between the US and Canada.


Continue Reading USMCA Labor Provisions Have Potential Commercial Impact