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.


Continue Reading NLRB’S Attempt at Fact Checking Rejected

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.


Continue Reading DC Circuit Court Reins in NLRB: No “Rubber Stamp” of NLRB’s Findings and Remedy

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 presenters Johan Botes (Johannesburg), Joanna Matthews-Taylor (Dubai) and Sertac Kokenek (Istanbul – Esin Attorney Partnership).

Our four-part Global Guided Tour for US Multinational Employers webinar series is your passport to ensure that your organization is up to speed on the key labor and employment issues affecting business operations in Europe, the

On February 4, 2021, House Democrats reintroduced the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (PRO Act). The sweeping labor legislation, which would return many provisions of current labor laws to their pre-1947 status, would create new claims and impose punitive penalties and strengthen a number of union and employee rights. The legislation has

President Biden did not waste any time after taking office on January 20, 2021. Shortly after the Presidential Oath of Office was administered, Biden signed 17 executive actions, which either impact the workplace or provide insight into what may be forthcoming under the new administration for employers.

A Flurry of Executive Orders on Day One

Biden issued a memorandum to agencies to freeze all last-minute regulations put in motion by the prior administration as President Trump was leaving office. Notably, these regulatory “freeze memos” are not uncommon for incoming administrations to issue. This pause on the prior administration’s last-minute regulations will give the Biden administration the opportunity to evaluate the so-called “midnight regulations” and determine if they will become final, be amended, or rescinded altogether.

He also issued an Executive Order reinforcing that Title VII prohibits the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Order references the recent Supreme Court case of Bostock v. Clayton County (blogged about here). Specifically, the Order states “[i]t is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” The Order notes that laws that prohibit sex discrimination (specifically referencing Title IX, the Fair Housing Act, and section 412 of the Immigration and Nationality Act) also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.


Continue Reading Biden and the Workplace: Early Days, Major Changes

Ahead of President-Elect Biden’s inauguration in January, employers have a preview of what is likely to come in the form of stronger union and employee rights. On February 6, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (commonly known as the “PRO Act”), which contains ambitious changes to the current labor landscape. Changes include expanding the scope of joint employer under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), narrowing the definition of “supervisor” under the NLRA, expanding the right to strike to include secondary boycotts among other strikes, and providing additional avenues for workers to participate in collective or class actions. While the Senate has not acted on the bill since it was passed by the House, employers would do well to keep an eye on the revival of the PRO Act or any similar legislation. As an update to our recent blogpost on the PRO Act (here), we highlight two changes below that threaten employers if the PRO Act becomes law.

Banning Class Action Waiver in Arbitration Agreements

The PRO Act amends the NLRA to prohibit any employer attempt to execute or enforce any agreement whereby an employee promises not to pursue any class or collective actions. Notably, this provision in effect would overrule the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis, 138 S. Ct. 1612 (2018). The Epic Systems Court held that an arbitration agreement waiving the right to proceed collectively under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is enforceable, subject to generally applicable contract defenses, such as fraud, unconscionability, or duress. Moreover, the Court held that a class action waiver in an arbitration agreement did not violate employees’ rights under the NLRA. In contrast, the PRO Act’s amendments to the NLRA specifically provide that notwithstanding the Federal Arbitration Act (the federal statute authorizing arbitration agreements), an employer’s attempt to enforce class action waivers in an arbitration agreement would be an unfair labor practice under the NLRA.


Continue Reading PRO Act Likely to Impact Employment Litigation

Non-union employers historically have been little concerned by labor unrest. They will be in for a rude awakening if the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) is signed into law during a Biden administration. The sweeping rewrite of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) occasioned by the PRO Act has serious ramifications for union represented workforces as well. The PRO Act would remove the existing ban on secondary strikes, and remove the ban on recognitional strikes lasting over 30 days. The PRO Act would also legalize the intermittent strike and the partial strike. Additionally, the PRO Act bans the permanent replacement of strikers and prohibits terminating employees who engage in strikes. Below, we discuss several ways the passage of the PRO Act would change the labor landscape.

Continue Reading PRO Act Likely to Bring Labor Unrest to Main Street

Parties before the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) often wonder whether it is worthwhile to appeal adverse rulings or respond when favorable rulings are received. Two recent appellate court decisions demonstrate the value of sticking with an argument from start to finish.

A Winning Formula

First, in Davidson Hotel Company v. NLRB (D.C. Cir. 2020), the D.C. Circuit recently took the highly unusual step of rejecting an NLRB determination as to the appropriate unit for bargaining at a small, full-service hotel in Chicago. For context, the NLRB had determined that the Davidson Hotel’s employees should be segregated into three separate bargaining units: a unit of front desk employees, a unit of housekeeping employees, and a unit of food and beverage employees. The union petitioned the Board to certify a single unit of housekeeping employees and food and beverage employees.

The Board’s Regional Director decided that a unit consisting of the housekeeping and the food and beverage employees was not an appropriate unit because it did not include the front desk employees, and he dismissed the union’s petition for an election. The Regional Director reached his decision by applying the NLRB’s “community of interest” test, under which the NLRB examines: (1) whether employees in the proposed unit have sufficient commonality in working conditions and job duties (among other factors) such that bargaining as a collective group is possible; and (2) whether employees in the unit have such distinctive interests from those who are excluded-here, the front desk employees-such that they should bargain separately. In his order dismissing the union’s initial petition for a single bargaining unit of housekeeping and food and beverage employees, the Regional Director decided that the unit did not have distinctive interests from the front desk workers, but he hinted that two separate units (one for housekeeping and another for food and beverage) might be appropriate.

Following his cue, the union promptly filed two petitions seeking one election in the housekeeping unit and a second election in the food and beverage service unit. Again, the union did not seek to represent the front desk employees. This time, the Regional Director found that the community of interest test was satisfied and he certified the two units. When an election was held, the union prevailed in both units.


Continue Reading A Tale of Two Appeals: Recent Appellate NLRB Decisions Show the Value of Sticking with an Argument

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