Friday, December 15, 2017
Another twofer from the NLRB today. The first is another expected change--the Specialty Healthcare decision that has been much derided by employers. In Specialty Healthcare (2011), the Board concluded that if, after there is a determination pursuant to the traditional unit determination test, an employer argued that employees should be added to a union's proposed unit, the Board would find the proposed unit appropriate unless the employer could show that the excluded employees shared an overwhelming community of interest with the proposed group of employees. In PCC Structurals, the NLRB reversed Specialty Healthcare and its "overwhelming community of interest" standard, instead using only the multi factored test for a unit determination in most cases. Also, although it wasn't presented in PCC Structurals, the NLRB also reinstated the Park Manor standard for nonacute health care facilities (like nursing homes), that prompted the Specialty Healthcare decision. Legally, the issue over the traditional v. Specialty Healthcare tests hinges on what is meant by the NLRA's mandate that a unit merely be "an appropriate" unit rather than the "most appropriate" unit and how much the interests of excluded employees should play a role. But in reality, the disagreement is mainly based on the fact that, in general, the smaller the unit, the easier to organize.
In the second case, Raytheon Network Centric Systems, the NLRB reversed a 2016 case, DuPont, in which the Board had concluded that an employer must bargain with a union before instituting a change that is consistent with a previous practice that was created under an expired management rights clause or made pursuant to employer discretion. In Raytheon, the NLRB stated that an employer need not bargain before implementing any change that is similar in kind and degree with an established past practice that is similar to the unilateral change--even if the past practices were created under a collective-bargaining agreement, even if there was no agreement when the disputed change was implemented, and even if the past practices involve some degree of employer discretion. The dissent argues strenuously that this new rule violates the Supreme Court's decision in Katz.
We now have four NLRB reversals over two days, all of which were issued without any notice or invitation for comment. Moreover, they all mirror Chairman Miscimarra dissents. The Chairman's term is expiring tomorrow, so I wouldn't be surprised to see several more decisions even running into next week (dated Dec. 16).
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Well, that didn't take long. A mere day after our post about possible changes from the new NLRB, the Board has announced two major rule reversals.
The second case announced, as will surprise exactly no one, reverses the NLRB's Browning-Ferris decision on joint employer status. In Hy-Brand Industrial, the NLRB returned to the pre-Browning standard, under which joint employment is found only if actual control is exercised in a "direct and immediate" manner that is not limited or routine. You can see our previous coverage of the standards here. This has been a major issue for many employers, such as franchise businesses, and the subject of a lot of activity in Congress, so this move was expected.
The first case announced reversed a 2004 decision, Lutheran Heritage, which concluded that an employer's facially neutral workplace rule will be unlawful if employees would reasonably construe it as prohibiting the exercise of NLRA, Section 7 rights. Under the new case, The Boeing Co., the NLRB will only find facially neutral rules to be unlawful by weighing the nature and extent of the potential impact of the rule on NLRA rights, and the employer's legitimate justifications for implementing the rule. The Board also emphasized that an otherwise lawful rule could still be applied in an unlawful fashion. To provide more clarity, the Board is establishing three categories; according to the NLRB announcement:
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
With the new Republican majority at the NLRB, changes from the prior Board were to be expected and now we're beginning to see that pay out. For instance, yesterday, by a 3-2 vote, the NLRB flipped its policy on settlements yet again. Last year, in USPS, the Board concluded that ALJs should accept a proposed settlement over the General Counsel's and charging party's objections only if the offer provided a full remedy for all alleged complaints. In Presbyterian Shadyside, the new Board reversed USPS and will now allow ALJs to accept settlement proposals over the other parties' objections if the settlement is viewed as reasonable, using the Independent Stave factors.
Today, the Board also raises the prospect of reversing the new representation rules that were so contentious the earlier half of this decade. The Board released a request for information regarding these rules. In addition to what sounds like a fair amount of sniping among the Board members, the request asks the following three questions: "the Board has an interest in reviewing the Election Rule to evaluate whether the Rule should be
(1) retained without change,
(2) retained with modifications, or
(3) rescinded, possibly while making changes to the prior Election Regulations that were in place before the Rule’s adoption.
Regarding these questions, the Board believes it will be helpful to solicit and consider public responses to this request for information."
For a description of the new rules and how they changed the process, check out my article on the topic, NLRB Elections: Ambush or Anticlimax?, 64 Emory L.J. 1647 (2015). As I described, the new rules were actually a fairly modest change to procures. NLRB statistics following their implementation support that conclusion as well. The election timeline was shortened some, but the new rules seem to have no appreciable effect on election outcomes. Given all of this, it will be interesting to see if the Board feels like this is an issue worth the time to tackle.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
What do unions do for regulation? That's the subject of Alison Morantz's recent and timely review of the research literature: "What Unions Do for Regulation," Annual Review of Law and Social Science 13 (2017): 515-534. Here's the abstract:
The question of how organized labor affects the content, enforcement, and outcomes of regulation is especially timely in an era in which protective laws and regulations are being scaled back or minimally enforced and union membership is in decline. This article surveys literature from a wide array of regulatory domains—antidiscrimination, environmental protection, product quality, corporate governance, law enforcement, tax compliance, minimum wage and overtime protection, and occupational safety and health—in an effort to identify common findings on what unions do for regulation. Literature on the topic has taken up five questions: how labor unions affect the passage of protective laws and regulations; how they affect the outcomes that regulators target; how they affect the intensity of regulatory enforcement; the specific activities and channels of influence they use to influence regulated outcomes; and the role they play in self-regulation. Drawing on empirical literature from the domains listed, I review and analyze literature on each of these questions and offer several conclusions and suggestions for future research.
Morantz's main conclusion: There's a lot of support in the research literature for thinking that, "in most contexts, unions' tendency to strengthen workers' collective voice and mitigate market imperfections predominates their tendency to exert monopoly power and engage in economic rent-seeking." The best evidence of this comes from studies of how unionization strongly correlates with lower rates of serious and fatal workplace injuries. Some prior research also shows that unions tend to lower overall wage dispersion, which may indirectly reduce pay discrimination against women and racial minorities.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Over at Indisputably, Sarah Cole has a great post about the Fifth Circuit's rejection of a preliminary injunction by the NFL Players' association that would have prevented the suspension of Cowboy running back Zeke Elliott. As Sarah points out, the arbitration clause that the NFL and the Players' Association agreed to is bizarre, but the Players' Association must follow the procedure it agreed to before challenging the outcome in court.
In other news, an unfair labor practice charge has been filed against the Cowboys (and owner Jerry Jones) for threatening to bench players who kneel during the national anthem to protest race discrimination and violence. As Ben Sachs points out over at onlabor, this is a possible ULP for interfering with the players' protected concerted activity under the NLRA. In a separate onlabor post, Noah Zatz makes a convincing case that any benching would violate the opposition clause of Title VII's anti-retaliation provision.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Some recent labor & employment news to catch up on:
- The NLRB is back at full strength, at least for a while, now that William Emmanuel has been sworn in. Terms that are set to expire soon are Chairman Miscimarra (Republican) on Dec. 16, 2017 and Mark Pearce (Democratic) on Aug. 27, 2018. They're close enough that we may see a package deal for a Republican and a Democratic nominee, but we'll see.
- Kate O'Scannlain, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis has been nominated to be Solicitor of Labor. And yes, she is the daughter of Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain on the Ninth Circuit.
- The Ninth Circuit put the Uber driver classification cases (O'Connor et al.) on hold. The court decided that it should pause the numerous class action suits pending the Supreme Court's decision on whether the NLRA bars class-action arbitration waivers.
- Speaking of the Court's class action arbitration case (Epic et al.), oral argument on the case was held on Oct. 2. SCOTUSBlog has a good summary of the argument--bottom line, it doesn't look good for the argument that the NLRA prevents these class-action waivers. Justice Gorsuch didn't ask any questions and his like of textualism suggests at least a chance that the NLRA argument could win. But I have a hard time believing that he's going to buck the trend in the Court of interpreting the Federal Arbitration Act in a way that upholds arbitration agreements.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two workplace-related cases--both involving issues that are repeat customers. In Janus v. ASFCME, the Court will take another stab at declaring that the First Amendment bars requiring public-sector employees from paying dues for union representation. (You can see here and here for our past coverage of the Friedrichs case). I'll go out on a very steady limb here and say that the Court will hold 5-4 in favor of the dissenting union-represented employees.
Also, in Encino Motorcars v. Navarro, the Court will again look at whether car dealership service advisors/representatives should be exempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions. The Court considered this case before, reversing the Ninth Circuit's reliance on a recently changed Department of Labor rule. Now that the appellate court has refused to exempt those employees based on its own reading of the statute's exclusion of car salesperson, the Court has decided to address the issue again.
You can read more at SCOTUSBlog.
Friday, August 11, 2017
Bill Hebert (Hunter College) and Joshua Freeman (Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center) appeared on New York Public Radio's Brian Lehrer Program on Wednesday to discuss New York's public sector collective bargaining law, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary on September 1, 1967. The segment is tied with a program that will be taking place at Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Police Institute in Manhattan on September 26. The program is being co-sponsored by Roosevelt House, the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, and the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Labor Studies. Other participants in the Taylor Law program will be Marty Malin, Joe McCartin, Kim Philips-Fein and Marilyn Sneiderman.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Yesterday, Jeff posted on Google Engineer Files NLRB Complaint Regarding Post-Memo Termination. Today's Wall Street Journal quotes Susan Bisom-Rapp (TJSL) and Matt Bodie (SLU) extensively on the viability of the engineer's claims. Here's an excerpt:
Thomas Jefferson School of Law Prof. Susan Bisom-Rapp, who researches employment discrimination law, said while she disagreed with Mr. Damore’s views, she could envision potential legal arguments he could make to invoke the NLRA.
That Mr. Damore’s letter doesn’t appear to be drafted in concert with other Google employees doesn’t in itself mean the law cannot be invoked. Protections can be triggered by a single employee trying to rally colleagues around a wider workplace issue.
Mr. Damore could try to argue that he’s “protected in expressing himself in an effort to engage in dialogue with co-workers about Google’s diversity efforts,” said Prof. Bisom-Rapp.
However, “an employee gripe or complaint standing alone, without that call to fellow employees to gather together, is not enough,” said Julie Totten, an employment defense lawyer with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in Sacramento.
Labor law also forbids employers from firing a worker for alleging an unfair labor practice, making the timing of Mr. Damore’s formal complaint potentially relevant in a legal dispute, said Prof. Bisom-Rapp.
Legal experts said federal antidiscrimination law could offer Mr. Damore another possible, albeit narrow, legal avenue. His memo suggested Google is engaging in reverse discrimination, citing “special treatment for ’diversity’ candidates.” Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans employers from retaliating against workers for complaining about unlawful workplace discrimination.
“You would have to show what Google is doing is illegal. That would be difficult,” said Prof. Matt Bodie, an employment law scholar at Saint Louis University Law School and a former NLRB field attorney.
The NLRB generally doesn’t impose remedies beyond reinstatement of employment and back pay, Mr. Bodie said.
The full WSJ article is available at Jacob Gershman & Sara Randazzo, Fired Engineer Likely to Face Obstacles in Challenging Google, WSJ 8/9/17.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
This case has managed to hit a bunch of labor and employment issues: A Google engineer first released a memo criticizing Google's diversity efforts and, among other things, arguing that women were biologically less suited to be engineers. It was reported within the last 24 yours that the engineer has now been fired and is exploring legal options. What those might be are questionable. Because Google is a private employer, there are no constitutional free speech rights. However, the engineer will want to explore any company policies or rules that might be interpreted as establishing contractual rights to speak one's mind or enjoy certain procedures before discipline (Google, in contrast, is already alleging that the engineer has violated its corporate conduct policies). The engineer might also have a Title VII retaliation claim if he can argue that he was objecting to illegal activity by Google, but without more facts, that seems a stretch at this point.
Interestingly, the one claim I've seen thus far is under the NLRA. There are two complaints really. First, the engineer apparently filed a complaint with the NLRB prior to his termination. I'm not sure what adverse action he's alleging, but presumably, he's also arguing that his memo was concerted and protected conduct. He does seem to be talking about workplace issues, but whether there was concerted action is less clear. It sounds like he released the memo on a company listserv, so he might be viewed as trying to instigate group action or there might have been follow-up conversations that establish concerted action, but it's not clear at present. And even if it was, Google can still argue that the memo was disruptive enough to overcome the engineer's NLRA rights. Second, the engineer alleges that his termination was in retaliation for the initial complaint. If it could prove that was Google's motivation, then it's a pretty clear violation of the NLRA. But I suspect Google won't have trouble showing that the memo--not the NLRB complaint--was the cause of the termination.
All interesting issues, so watch out for what comes next. Of course, some sort of settlement may be the most likely, as Google would probably prefer that everyone be talking about other things.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Today, the Senate confirmed Marvin Kaplan as the newest member to the National Labor Relations Board by a 50-48 vote, bringing the Board an even Democratic/Republican split. Reports are that the vote on William Emanuel, which will produce a Republican-majority NLRB will occur after the August recess.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Friend-of-blog Lise Gelernter (SUNY Buffalo) sends along the following CALL FOR PAPERS:
The Taylor Law at 50: Bright Spots and Pressure Points .The New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the Taylor Law 50th Anniversary Committee are pleased to invite submissions for a special conference recognizing New York’s Taylor Law and its substantial influence on public sector labor relations over the past 50 years. The conference will take place May 10-11, 2018 in Albany, NY. Practitioners and scholars interested in presenting their work at the conference should submit an abstract of a proposed paper or session by September 15, 2017. Abstracts should be no longer than 1,000 words and should include a detailed description of the focus of the proposed paper or session, its relevance to the conference, and its contribution to the study or practice of public sector labor relations. In addition, session abstracts should also include a list of invited participants and their proposed presentations. Prospective contributors are encouraged to contact PERB Chair John Wirenius (JWirenius@perb.ny.gov), Lise Gelernter (firstname.lastname@example.org), William Herbert (email@example.com), or Ariel Avgar (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any question or inquiries regarding this call for papers. Paper and session abstracts should be submitted via email to email@example.com. Authors will be notified by December 15 if their paper or session has been accepted to the conference.
For this conference we especially welcome submissions that shed new light on key aspects of the Taylor Law, its application, and its consequences for public sector labor relations. We also encourage submissions that provide a comparative perspective based on evidence from other states or countries. We welcome submissions from practitioners, scholars, policy makers across a wide array of disciplinary domains including, but not limited to, law, history, economics, sociology, political science, labor relations, and human resources.
This looks like a great conference and I strongly encourage anyone interested to apply!
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
The problem-based approach of Labor Law: A Problem-Based Approach moves beyond lectures, the Socratic teaching model, and the casebook method, while developing the critical reasoning skills required to be a successful attorney. The problem-based pedagogical method will directly help students by synchronizing the way labor law is taught with the way it is typically tested. The book is updated through the end of 2016 and features the most important cases, documents, and articles for students to become proficient in the practice of American private-sector labor law.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
It's no secret that unions have faced especially difficult conditions in the South. That's why two recent stories showing signs of success for union efforts in the South caught my attention (or at least one story of success and one of hopefulness.
First is a new collective-bargaining agreement between Duke University and a unionized group of non-tenure-track faculty represented by SEUI. The faculty still need to vote on the agreement, but it looks to be very beneficial to them--significant pay increases and job security--and is expected to pass. Second is a recent election petition at a Mississippi Nissan plant. We've obviously been down this road before, but the demographics and conditions at the plant, particularly the large percentage of African-American workers, makes this a vote to watch. Of course, we've seen union support drop off significantly prior to elections, so we'll have to see what happens.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Many thanks to Dennis Nolan (South Carolina emeritus; NAA) for forwarding Sylvain Cypel, Macron’s California Revolution, which has a detailed discussion of French President Emmanuel Macron's plans for French labor law. Here's an excerpt:
Continuing deindustrialization has shut millions of older employees out of the job market. And unemployment among the young is beating all records: at the end of April 2017, the number of officially registered jobseekers hit 5,836,000—the same number as in the United States, a country with five times France’s population! For the past forty years, whether governed by the right or the left—or even during short periods of “cohabitation”—neither side has been able to curb unemployment.
[N]ew macroniste politicians closely follow their leader’s core socioeconomic philosophy: that in today’s world, the people who rise to the top, or at least stay afloat, are those who’ve succeeded in adapting to the relentless process of globalization and its technological disruptions. There will be less and less room for job security and more and more for people who have a capacity for innovation and adaptation. Gone are lifelong professional careers. Likewise gone are rigid job descriptions and fixed work schedules. In this, Macron once again embodies a very American way of thinking. And he believes that France has to catch up to the current reality of the labor force.
But the first real test of the new president’s mandate will be the new labor law that he intends to issue as an executive order, before asking France’s parliament to vote on it. Macron wants to move fast. He wants to take advantage of the “big bang” of his election and his opponents’ stunned paralysis to abolish much of the existing French labor code, which, because of powerful labor unions, was designed to cater to the best-protected employees—especially those in heavy industry—and has long been skewed toward the interests of workers in general at the expense of greater flexibility and efficiency for private enterprise. Just how far does he mean to take this? Clearly, as far as he can.
The real question is whether Macron is ready to take on the unions or will seek to compromise with them. His approach to economic reform has been well known since his tenure as economics minister (2014–2016): a major deregulation of existing laws to allow employers to practice less “rigid” employment and hiring policies, including fewer restrictions on salaries and working conditions. These measures, he argues, are essential if there is to be a revival of the French job market. Employers, who are also asking for a freer hand in firing workers, claim these measures will bring a reduction in labor costs. The corollary to these ambitions, and the condition for their success, is a significant reduction of what remains of the unions’ power, already enormously diminished. (Fifty years ago, 22 percent of all employees were union members, while that number is currently 7.7 percent, according to the OECD).
When Macron tried to put these reforms into effect as economics minister under François Hollande, he encountered very strong resistance from the unions and from the public itself. After a series of protest marches and demonstrations, the law had to be issued by Prime Minister Valls, through a procedure designed to avoid a parliamentary vote, which it seemed quite unlikely to pass. Today the basic problem is much the same. The unions are so hostile to reforming the labor market because, behind the apparent “change,” it is possible to glimpse a policy that’s been at work for a long time already. Ever since 1984, all governments, right and left, have worked tirelessly to shatter administrative and legal “rigidity” with respect to hiring and firing. And yet, France’s steadily worsening joblessness has never been brought under control. Even worse, in France as in nearly all the rest of the Western world, inequality has become ever more deeply entrenched, in lockstep with the deterioration of middle-class purchasing power. It’s not hard to imagine, therefore, that the unions might once again be the front line of resistance to still more radical measures to deregulate the labor market.
Friday, June 23, 2017
Jonathan Rauch has written The Conservative Case for Unions in the Atlantic. Congratulations to Matt Dimick (Buffalo) for a prominent mention, and for Rauch's discussion of Dimick's work on the Ghent System. Here's an excerpt from the article:
All workers do not suffer equally from the decline of unions: In today’s fragmented, hypercompetitive, and globalized workplace, high-powered professionals enjoy more autonomy and respect than ever. Less educated workers, by contrast, have lost agency and, in many cases, dignity. Edward Luce of the Financial Times puts the problem well in his new book, The Retreat of Western Liberalism: “In survey after survey, the biggest employee complaint is being treated with a lack of respect. Whether they work in an Amazon warehouse, serve fast food, or sit in a … customer-service cubicle, they feel diminished by how they are treated.” That has implications not just for the well-being of workers, but for the health of capitalism and even of democracy.
In America, the modern conservative movement was founded on anticommunism and antiunionism. Senator Barry Goldwater (“Mr. Conservative”) built his career bashing unions. President Ronald Reagan, although a former union leader himself, made his bones by breaking the air-traffic controllers’ union. Just this past February, Republicans succeeded in their long push for a right-to-work law in Missouri. But the conservative war on unions is beginning to look like a Faustian bargain. If 2016 taught us anything, it was that miserable workers are angry voters, and angry voters are more than capable of lashing out against trade, immigration, free markets, and for that matter liberal democracy itself.
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Congratulations to Steve Ware (Kansas) and Ariana Levinson (Louisville) on the publication of their new book Principles of Arbitration Law (Concise Hornbook Series, available July 2017). Here's the publisher's description:
The Concise Hornbook Principles of Arbitration Law is an authoritative and extensively cited treatise on arbitration. It thoroughly discusses general arbitration law―from federal preemption of state law to the formation, performance, and enforcement of arbitration agreements―and provides in-depth coverage of specialized law governing international arbitration and labor arbitration. The last few decades have witnessed the growth of a large body of legal doctrine―from statutes, judicial decisions, and other sources―focused on arbitration. This Concise Hornbook summarizes that body of law, so should be useful to lawyers and scholars researching arbitration law and to students learning about arbitration.
I haven't yet received a copy of the book, but know from reviewing the draft of the labor law chapter that it will be top-flight.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
The Center for Contemporary Labour Law (CCLL) is a new labor-focused Center directed by Professor Giorgi Amiranashvili of Tbilisi State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. The goals of CCLL include (1) educational and scientific research activities, (2) dialogue & collaboration with all actors in the labor field, (3) consultative activities, and (4) collaboration with foreign experts and institutions.
Founding members include Prof. Amiranashvili, Prof. Dr. Andrea Borroni (Italy); Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vakhtang Zaalishvili (Georgia); Ph.D. Candidate Tornike Kapanadze (Georgia). Other members include Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elena Sychenko (Russian Federation); Prof. Dr. Francesco Bacchini (Italy); Prof. Dr. Roberta Caragnano (Italy); Dr. Marco Seghesio (Italy); Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nicos Trimikliniotis (Cyprus); Prof. Rick Bales (U.S.).
CCLL has hosted several lectures at Tbilisi State, including:
- Prof. Dr. Andrea Borroni & Prof. Dr. Francesco Bacchini on “The position of Labour law in the private law system”.
- Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elena Sychenko was held at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University on “The European Convention on Human Rights as a Source of Labour Law”.
- Mr. Kari Tapiola, Special Advisor to the Director General of the International Labour Organization, on “The Role of International Labour Standards in strengthening Social Justice and Economic Efficiency”.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Michael Green has been burning the midnight scholarship oil recently. He has posted two articles to SSRN in the last month: The Audacity of Protecting Racist Speech under the National Labor Relations Act, forthcoming 2017 U. Chicago Legal Forum, and Can NFL Players Obtain Judicial Review of Arbitration Decisions on the Merits When a Typical Hourly Union Worker Cannot Obtain This Unusual Court Access?, forthcoming NYU J. Legislation and Public Policy. He also has a forthcoming paper in SMU Law Review on Racial Prejudice in ADR in the Workplace (SSRN post coming soon). Congrats, Michael!
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Reports are out today of two probable nominees to the NLRB. According to Politico's Morning Report report, the president intends to nominate William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, and both are currently undergoing FBI background checks. Emanuel is an attorney at Littler Mendelson's L.A. office, while Kaplan has been working in the federal government, currently at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and earlier as Republican counsel for the House Education and the Workforce Committee. An interesting note is that Bill Seaton had been rumored to be on the shortlist and it's possible that having worked as a "union buster" may have worked against him (or not, no one's saying at this point).