We are pleased to share a recent International Employment Lawyer article, “Are US Employers That Don’t Mandate Vaccines Now At Risk?” by Stephanie Priel, Robin Samuel, and Autumn Sharp. The article discusses risks companies that are not mandating COVID-19 vaccines may face, as well as steps those companies can take to meet their health and
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
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
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
America’s political divisions seem to be deepening. And, what’s troubling for employers is that our polarized political climate appears to be affecting employee productivity significantly, according to research by Gartner. According to a nationwide survey in February, 47% of employees reported that debate surrounding the 2020 elections is impacting their ability to get work done.…
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
We are pleased to share a recent SHRM article, “What to Do When Scared Workers Don’t Report to Work Due to COVID-19,” with quotes from Robin Samuel. This articles discusses several topics including employee’s legal rights and how to respond to an essential worker’s fear of returning to work.
Click here to view the article.…
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 …
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in First Student Inc. v. NLRB suggests the judicially-created “perfectly clear” successorship standard to determine whether a company inherited its predecessor’s bargaining agreement is ripe for a challenge.
A divided panel concluded that under the National Labor Relations Act, the “perfectly clear” successor standard applied to a successor…