In August, the National Labor Relations Board issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to address three rather limited situations involving employee representation issues. These proposed rules follow 70-plus years of experimentation with a hodgepodge of ad hoc one-off decisions, dramatic changes and frequent reversals in the process of enabling employees to exercise their rights under

Historically employers could not restrict labor organizing activity in employer-owned, publicly accessible spaces. But, last month, in UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, 368 N.L.R.B. No. 2 (2019), the NLRB reversed nearly 40 years of precedent holding that employers violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) if they prohibit nonemployee labor organizers from publicly-accessible spaces.

Post UPMC, employers may adopt and implement neutral policies regulating the use of employer-owned spaces open to the public (such as cafeterias) and may lawfully apply those policies to exclude nonemployee union organizers. Employers with spaces open to the public should consider whether to adopt and enforce a content neutral (nondiscriminatory) bar to nonemployee solicitation or distribution in the publicly accessible spaces on their property.


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This article was originally published on Law360.com.

Three recent decisions arising under the National Labor Relations Act highlight that ambiguity and inattentiveness are the twin banes of labor and employment attorneys. In all three cases, the dispute arose because two personnel policies or approaches overlapped, opening the way for conflicting claims. As these cases demonstrate,

Hiring Entity:  When are gig workers employees?

Four Government Agencies & Courts:  It depends!

Trying to track the employment status of gig workers will make your head spin. Contractors? Employees? Super heroes?

In the last few weeks, four federal and California state agencies and courts — the US Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Labor Commissioner — have all weighed in on the debate. And, the answer is — it depends.

Follow our script below to help make sense of the patchy legal landscape.


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On January 25, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board reaffirmed its adherence to the traditional common law independent contractor test for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the National Labor Relations Act.

In SuperShuttle DFW, Inc., the Board expressly overruled its 2014 FedEx Home Delivery decision. In FedEx, the Board drastically reduced the significance of entrepreneurial opportunity in the determination of independent contractor status. FedEx emphasized the right to control factors relevant to the so-called “economic realities” test and gave weight to whether a worker was in fact “seizing” actual opportunities and rendering services as part of their own independent business.

SuperShuttle DFW, Inc. is significant as it abandons the Obama-era standard and gives a boost to companies using contract labor by elevating the importance of entrepreneurial opportunity in the independent contractor analysis. Insodoing, the Board returns the legal framework to its traditional common law roots and adds the examination of entrepreneurial opportunity. The decision suggests that moving forward, the Board “evaluate the common-law factors through the prism of entrepreneurial opportunity when the specific factual circumstances of the case make such an evaluation appropriate.”


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The NLRB closed out its busy week of reversing Obama-era standards in two more high-profile decisions, this time addressing the duty to bargain and bargaining unit determination (see our previous post covering work rule and joint employer standards). On Chairman Phillip Miscimarra’s final day in office, the Board’s two key decisions: (1) returned to a standard returning to broader employer rights to make unilateral changes without providing a union notice and an opportunity to bargain; and (2) eliminated the “micro-unit” bargaining unit standard that constricted employers’ ability to expand proposed bargaining units to include other employees who share a community of interest with those of the proposed unit.

Impact on Employers

The return to previous standards of unilateral change analysis will allow employers more discretion in changing terms of employment consistent with past practice. This benefit to employers most commonly arises with company-wide changes to health insurance plans. Under the previous standard, an employer could be forced to delay implementation of health insurance changes until it had provided notice to the union and an opportunity to bargain, even in the face of longstanding past practice. Many employers with medical plans covering union and non-union employees will have less interruption during open enrollment plan changes.

Elimination of the “micro-unit” standard of bargaining unit appropriateness substantially reduces a union’s ability to cherry pick favorable groups of employees to win elections. Unit determination will return to a more holistic review of shared “community of interest” rather than proceeding based on the union’s extent of organizing. Ultimately, the decision will give employers more ability to defend against union organizing campaigns and keep unions from obtaining representation through small pockets of employees amongst a larger department or facility.


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In a flurry of high-profile decisions issued on the eve of NLRB Chairman Phillip Miscimarra’s term’s expiration, the NLRB has announced employer-friendly standards reversing recently adopted analyses and restoring the historical analyses in perhaps the two most watched (and criticized) categories of employer unfair labor practice (ULP) charges: (1) evaluating work rules for impact on protected concerted activity (formerly the Lutheran Heritage analysis); and (2) joint employer liability (formerly the Browning-Ferris analysis).

Impact on Employers:

As a result of the “new” work rule analysis, employers will be less likely to face scrutiny of employee handbook provisions. Employers now have broader discretion to implement and enforce handbook provisions relating to civility in the workplace and workplace safety (i.e., no cell phone/camera policies, social media). Employers who have dramatically trimmed employee conduct policies have some freedom to reinstate more usable and effective rules, but should note that this area of law is almost certain to fluctuate based on the presidential administration in power.

With the reversal of the joint employer analysis, employers will have less labor risk (bargaining obligations and strikes) when engaging third parties like staffing companies, temporary workers, or co-located workers. Critically, the prospect of becoming bound to a bargaining obligation with  another entity’s employees will be substantially less likely. Avoiding joint employer liability will focus more limiting actual control and direction of non-employees and less on the contractual arrangements with other entities supplying those employees. While this change is unlikely to dramatically change the scope of outsourcing, employers can have more certainty of the scope of potential ramifications and liability in using third party workers.


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On Monday, September 26, the U.S. Senate voted and confirmed William Emanuel as the newest member of the National Labor Relations Board.  Emanuel is a long-time management-side labor and employment attorney, who was nominated by President Trump in June to fill the vacant NLRB seat.  With Emanuel’s confirmation, the NLRB has a Republican majority for

On January 13, 2017, the US Supreme Court agreed to determine whether arbitration agreements that include class action waivers are legally enforceable under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In doing so, the Court granted the petitions for certiorari, and consolidated, three cases from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Seventh and Ninth