Thursday, August 27, 2015
In a 3-2 decision involving Browning-Ferris Industries of California, the National Labor Relations Board refined its standard for determining joint-employer status. The revised standard is designed “to better effectuate the purposes of the Act in the current economic landscape.” With more than 2.87 million of the nation’s workers employed through temporary agencies in August 2014, the Board held that its previous joint employer standard has failed to keep pace with changes in the workplace and economic circumstances.
In the decision, the Board applies long-established principles to find that two or more entities are joint employers of a single workforce if (1) they are both employers within the meaning of the common law; and (2) they share or codetermine those matters governing the essential terms and conditions of employment. In evaluating whether an employer possesses sufficient control over employees to qualify as a joint employer, the Board will – among other factors -- consider whether an employer has exercised control over terms and conditions of employment indirectly through an intermediary, or whether it has reserved the authority to do so.
In its decision, the Board found that BFI was a joint employer with Leadpoint, the company that supplied employees to BFI to perform various work functions for BFI, including cleaning and sorting of recycled products. In finding that BFI was a joint employer with Leadpoint, the Board relied on indirect and direct control that BFI possessed over essential terms and conditions of employment of the employees supplied by Leadpoint as well as BFI’s reserved authority to control such terms and conditions.
The Board ordered that within 14 days the ballots that were impounded on April 25, 2014 shall be counted and the appropriate certification issued.
This decision could have a big impact on many industries, most notably, fast food. The General Counsel has already gone after McDonald's (see here and here) and expect more of the same now that the Board has spoken.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Washington, D.C. - - In a unanimous decision, the National Labor Board declined to assert jurisdiction in the case involving Northwestern University football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships. The Board did not determine if the players were statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Instead, the Board exercised its discretion not to assert jurisdiction and dismissed the representation petition filed by the union.
In the decision, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction would not promote labor stability due to the nature and structure of NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). By statute the Board does not have jurisdiction over state-run colleges and universities, which constitute 108 of the roughly 125 FBS teams. In addition, every school in the Big Ten, except Northwestern, is a state-run institution. As the NCAA and conference maintain substantial control over individual teams, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team would not promote stability in labor relations across the league.
This decision is narrowly focused to apply only to the players in this case and does not preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future.
I haven't read the decision yet, but I'll admit that I didn't see this one coming. On its own merits, one can understand the NLRB's conclusion that if it allowed Northwestern scholarship players to unionize, labor stability in all of college football wouldn't be well served. On the other hand, it could prompt much needed changes in college football. Moreover, it's not obvious why all of college football is the issue--one could envision productive collective-bargaining at just Northwestern, even if it was limited in scope. And, of course, on a selfish note, it would've been nice to have the Board speak to the issue of players' status as employees. But the Board has spoken--unanimously, no less, which I think is also important--and that should settle the issue for a while.
Friday, July 31, 2015
I worked on Google’s Global Ethics & Compliance team from 2007-2010 and at that time the thought of labor law having anything to say about the happenings of the Bay Area tech scene seemed unimaginable to most people – including those practicing law. Employment, sure, but not labor. (I’ve found this to be a bit true in academia as well – labor conjures up visions of coalminers or public school teachers but definitely not anybody working at tech companies.) Well, the other day a friend sent me a Wired article titled, “what happens when you talk about salaries at Google” and it reminded me of why that view can get companies into some real trouble.
The article itself is just a string of tweets from a former Google talking about what happened when she decided to conduct a salary transparency experiment at Google. Long story short, she and some coworkers got talking about salaries on the internal social network (I take it she’s talking about one of Google’s many internal email list, like misc), decided to make a spreadsheet where employees could add their own salary information, and then posted a link to the form on her internal profile.
The thing took off. Other people built the spreadsheet out to include fields on gender and a bunch of other stuff that made it possible to get even more out of the data, as it wont to happen when a bunch of smart people get going on something they find interesting (this quality is also a big part of what makes working at Google great). The next week the Googler who started the project was “invited” (I love that) to talk with her manager. Apparently her manager and the higher ups weren’t happy about the project. And, according to this Googler, her manager said “don’t you know what could happen?” And then something else interesting happened, though it takes a second to explain.
At Google, Googlers can give each other what are called “peer bonuses.” Basically, if someone else did something cool and you want to recognize them for it, you can easily click a few things, say a few words about why they’re great, and bam – the person gets $150 in their next paycheck. It’s pretty cool and, though my memory is hazy, people give them for all sorts of reasons. Someone helped you with a work project? Send away. Someone organized a fun bike ride or group outing? That can be peer bonus worthy, too. While the manager of the person receiving the award has to approve it, it was basically a sure thing. (NB: like the Googler writing, I also didn’t realize until reading this article that there was any manager approval of peer bonuses at all. No doubt because I, too, had never heard of one being rejected.) Anyway, while this Googler was receiving peer bonuses for creating this salary sheet, her manager was rejecting them all. Interestingly, while the Googler in question, a (I believe) black woman, was having her peer bonuses denied by her manager, a white man who was also involved in setting up the sheet was getting peer bonuses and those were all approved. Meanwhile, the spreadsheet continues, people use it to talk to their managers about getting raises, and some actually succeed in getting them.
This entire story is full of labor law (and internal compliance training) issues, some easier than others. Here are a couple:
- Could the company prohibit employees from using the internal system to talk about salaries? From creating a spreadsheet, using internal tools, that discusses that? What about prohibiting employees from putting up status messages that direct other employees to the spreadsheet?
- Can a manager call an employee in for a meeting about her promotion of salary transparency? And if so, can the manager say “don’t you know what could happen” about it?
- If the company has a peer bonus system where bonuses are virtually automatic though have nominally required manager approval, can a manager start rejecting bonuses if they are tied to the employee promoting salary transparency? What if bonuses are supposed to be given only for work-related activities (even though that hasn’t been enforced much, if at all, in the past)
Whether tech companies realize it or not, Section 7 rights are alive and well. And with the unionization of tech shuttle drivers and 140 Google Express workers seeking the same, I wouldn’t be surprised if labor issues start coming up more and more in the Bay Area – including, perhaps most interestingly, for those who we often forget might have them at all.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Vladimir Kogan (Ohio State - Political Science) has just posted on SSRN his article Do Anti-Union Policies Increase Inequality? Evidence from State Adoption of Right-to-Work Laws. Here's the abstract:
The distribution of income lies at the intersection of states and markets, both influencing and being shaped by government policy. Reflecting this reality, a growing body of research has examined the political causes of rising economic inequality in the U.S. Direct evidence documenting the mechanisms through which government actors have affected the income gap remains in short supply, however. This study leverages variation in labor laws between U.S. states and differences in the timing of adoption of right-to-work legislation, along with new historical data on the distribution of income at the state level, to examine one such mechanism. Using a difference-in-differences design, the results produce no support for the contention that the adoption of RTW laws increased inequality in any meaningful way, pointing to the importance of grounding theoretical arguments about rising inequality in a sound empirical reality.
This seems counter-intuitive. Any thoughts on what might be going on here?
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Today, the Supreme Court granted cert. in Friedrich's v. Cal. Teacher's Association. The issues presented are
(1) Whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.
I'm sure I'll get disagreement on this point, but I think issue 1 isn't going anywhere. The Court took a shot at Abood in Harris v. Quinn, but clearly didn't have five votes. Far more likely is issue 2, with the Court probably holding that public-sector unions must use an opt-in system for dues, rather than the current opt-out rule. I've never been sympathetic to the view that the Constitution mandates opt-in over opt-out, but the Court has been dropping some big hints about going in the direction over the last few years.
Hat Tip: John Coyle
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Sam Estreicher (NYU) has just published Depoliticizing the National Labor Relations Board: Administrative Steps , 64 Emory L.J. 1611 2015). Here's the abstract:
Complaints about the political forces arrayed against the basic labor laws and about the increasing “politicization” of the National Labor Relations Board are hardy perennials. The charge remains a constant, only those who level it differ depending on which party is in the White House. On the assumption that legislative change is not in the offing, what can the Board on its own do to improve its reputation in Congress and in the courts and, at the same time, enhance its effectiveness as the essential government agency to protect workers in dealings with their employers?
Nick Ohanesian (Judge, Social Security Administration) has posted on SSRN his article (just published at 45 U. Mem. L. Rev. 245 (2014)) Does 'Why' or 'What' Matter: Should Section 302 Apply to Card Check Neutrality Agreements? Here's an excerpt from the abstract:
... In this article I will trace the histories of Section 302 and card check neutrality agreements. I will discuss how different courts have treated the application of Section 302 to card check neutrality agreements. Then I will look at the attempts to resolve the conflict between Section 302 and card check neutrality agreements by first looking at the issues of intent and whether card check neutrality agreements are covered by Section 302. Finally, I will propose looking at extrinsic evidence to decide on a case by case basis whether card check neutrality agreements run afoul of Section 302.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
David Schwartz (NLRB, writing on his own behalf) has just posted on SSRN his article, The NLRA's Religious Exemption in a Post-Hobby Lobby World: Current Status, Future Difficulties, and a Proposed Solution, which is being published in the ABA Journal of Labor and Employment Law. The abstract:
This article discusses the relevance of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in relation to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Writing as an individual and not on behalf of the NLRB, Mr. Schwartz reviews the broad issue of employment law in religious settings and the development of the NLRA’s religious exemption. He suggests a standard for application of the Board’s religious exemption designed to achieve an appropriate balance of the competing interests between employer's religious rights and employees' regulatory protections.
It's great to see someone address this issue. I've already been introducing Hobby Lobby in my labor law (and other courses), although it's hard to predict exactly how much it's going to impact those areas. But with Hobby Lobby and the NLRB's new Pacific Lutheran standard, the issue of religion and labor law will be quite interesting.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Matthew Fletcher (Michigan St.) writes to update us on recent cases concerning the applicability of the NLRA to American Indian casinos. In NLRB v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Gov't (links are to Turtle Talk blog), the Sixth Circuit held that the Act applies to the Band's operation of a casino. In Chickasaw Nation & Teamsters Local 886, the NLRB declined jurisdiction over casino employees to avoid abrogating treaty rights.
Also of note, Matthew just posted on SSRN his essay A Restatement of Federal Indian Law?, 40:4 ABA Human Rights Magazine 23 (May 2015). The essay describes the ongoing restatement project on the law of American Indians being conducted by the American Law Institute.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Christine Neylon O'Brien (Boston College School of Management) has just posted on SSRN her article (forthcoming 66 Lab. L.J. (2015)) Am I Blue or Seeing Red? The NLRB Sees Purple When Employer Communication Policies Unduly Restrict Section 7 Rights. Here's the abstract:
This paper analyzes the National Labor Relations Board’s recent Purple Communications decision. There, the Obama Board found Purple Communication’s restrictions on employee use of its email system violated the National Labor Relations Act as employees were authorized to use the employer email system for work purposes but prohibited from using the email for concerted activities on nonworking time. The Purple Communications ruling has broad significance for employer email policies in the private sector because Section 7 of the NLRA protects employee rights to engage in concerted activity whether employees are unionized or not. The decision specifically overturned the Bush Board’s 2007 holding in Register Guard that employer property rights took precedence over employee Section 7 rights to communicate on employer email systems. This paper evaluates the parameters and implications of the Board’s recent decision on email, including the concerns raised by the dissenters regarding the application of the Board's rebuttable presumption. Practical solutions are recommended.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Seth Harris, Distinguished Scholar at Cornell's ILR School, has just posted on SSRN his article, Managing for Social Change: Improving Labor Department Performance in a Partisan Era, which will appear in the West Virginia Law Review. The abstract:
I saw Seth present this paper at a West Virginia University Symposium, and it was really interesting. That's right, it's about managerial performance measures and it was really interesting. Don't believe me? Read the article.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
The annual Colloquium on Scholarship in Employment and Labor Law (COSELL) will be held at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Sept. 11-12, 2015, in Bloomington, Indiana. This conference, now in its tenth year, brings together labor and employment law professors from across the country. It offers participants the opportunity to present works-in-progress to a friendly and knowledgeable audience.
Registration is now open at: http://www.law.indiana.edu/cosell.
If you’re planning to come, please go ahead and register now; you can fill in details about the project you will present later in the summer.
The conference is free, and we will provide all meals during the conference. Travel & hotel information is found on the website.
Please feel free to contact any of us with questions.
We will look forward to hosting you in Bloomington!
April 28, 2015 in About This Blog, Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty News, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Labor/Employment History, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Teaching, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, April 26, 2015
The first of no doubt many updates on the legal wrangling of the NLRB's new election rules. In Baker v. NLRB, a D.C. district court judge has denied plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order stopping enforcement of the new rules, which went into effect on April 14, 2015. Of particular note is the court's finding that the plaintiffs had not shown a likelihood of winning on the merits. This is far from the final word, but a nice first step for the NLRB.
For a description of the major changes in the new rules, and an argument that those changes are quite modest in scope and effect, see my recent article, NLRB Elections: Ambush or Anticlimax?.
Hat Tip: Patrick Kavanagh
Recently, in Buckeye Florida, the NLRB invited briefing on whether to overturn its precedent prohibiting unions from charging nonmember employees for grievance processing. This is an issue in right-to-work states because, under current NLRB law (H.O. Canfield Rubber Co.), a union has a duty to pursue nonmember grievances the same as member grievances, but can't require nonmembers to pay anything for the service.
Given all the recent attacks on union security agreements (requiring dues), this is one way the NLRB can respond. Expect major outcries if the NLRB decides to allow unions to charge for grievance processing. However, it's not that easy to defend the current precedent. That line of reasoning is that grievance processing is a central part of collective representation, which is certainly a reasonable legal argument given that right-to-work laws are legal. That said, this is one area in which the non-labor expert is likely to feel more sympathetic to the union, which merely has to argue something along the lines of "we shouldn't have to work for free."
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
It's official. As of yesterday, the NLRB's new representation rules are now effective. Challenges are already raised, and more are likely to follow, so there's plenty more to come. In the meantime, if you're look for a primer on the major new changes, you can see my forthcoming article, NLRB Elections: Ambush or Anticlimax?, which will appear in the Emory Law Journal as part of its symposium on the NLRB at 80 years.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
News is out today that Sharon Block, former NLRB Member of Noel Canning fame, will be working at the White House. She will be a senior advisor for labor and working families at the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Great to hear that my former colleague at the NLRB has moved such an important position.
Hat Tip: Patrick Kavanagh
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
This Friday, the Emory Law Review will host a symposium, The National Labor Relations Board After Eighty Years. The lineup, present company excluded, is impressive and includes all current NLRB members (plus a former Chairman) and the current NLRB General Counsel. In addition, several of the top labor academics will be presenting. As I can personally attest, the law review has already been working hard on getting the symposium issue ready for publication, so it should be out relatively soon.
Here's the symposium description, which appropriately gives thanks to Michael Green, who--in addition to the law review members--put this entire symposium together:
The Emory Law Journal is pleased to present a special symposium the Journal has put together with the invaluable assistance of Professor Michael Z. Green of the Texas A&M University School of Law. Our symposium will address the continued viability of the National Labor Relations Board as an administrative agency at the dawn of its eightieth anniversary. The decisions and actions of the Board have drawn increased scrutiny in the modern era, and even more so in the wake of President Obama's efforts to ensure the Board was comprised of a full contingent of members. But even before President Obama was elected, because the Board primarily develops its rules through adjudications its decisions have become quite controversial, no doubt in part as a result from the lack of legislative changes to guide the agency's actions over the past forty years. The NLRB’s effectiveness as it reaches its eightieth anniversary in 2015 represents an important legal question and a major concern for all those interested in labor law. This Symposium will assemble some of the most prominent labor law scholars in the country along with the NLRB Chairman and NLRB General Counsel and other members of the NLRB to assess the role of the Board today, what actions Congress may take with respect to the Board, and what the future of the Board might be. Specifically, our symposium will feature three panels, highlighted below.
Assessing the NLRB's Impact & Political Effectiveness
Charlotte Garden, Seattle University School of Law, “A Shot Across the Bow”: Politics and the Obama Board
Julius Getman, University of Texas School of Law, The NLRB, What Went Wrong, and Should We Try to Fix It?
William B. Gould IV, Stanford Law School, Politics and the Effect on the NLRB’s Adjudicative Process
Theodore St. Antoine, University of Michigan Law School, The NLRB’s Role Vis-à-Vis Courts
A Conversation with NLRB Members & General Counsel
Moderator: Professor Charles A. Shanor
Mark Gaston Pearce, Chairman
Richard F. Griffin, Jr., General Counsel
Kent Y. Hirozawa, Member
Harry I. Johnson, III, Member
Lauren McFerran, Member
Philip A. Miscimarra, Member
Opportunities for Improvement in Changing Times
Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt, Maurer School of Law, Indiana University, Labor Law 2.0: The Impact of the New Information Technology on the Employment Relationship and the Relevance of the NLRA
Samuel Estreicher, NYU School of Law, Towards a Depoliticization of the NLRB: Administrative Steps
Michael Z. Green, Texas A&M University School of Law, Expanding Protections in the Non-Union Workplace: The New Age of the NLRB
Jeffrey Hirsch, UNC School of Law, NLRB Elections: Ambush or Anticlimax?
Monday, March 16, 2015
As we noted earlier, the UAW's attempt to organize graduate students at Columbia raised the potential for the NLRB reversing Brown University. As of Friday, that potential significantly increased. In two short decisions (I haven't been able to find them yet), the NLRB ordered a regional hearing on the UAW's petition to represent grad students at both Columbia and the New School. This procedural decision establishes a path for the NLRB to ultimately review whether the students are employees under the NLRA. Thus, these cases--in addition to the Northwestern University footballs players--means that we'll likely see a lot of collegiate student action at the Board for a while.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Bill Herbert (Hunter College) and Alicia McNally (New York State PERB) have just posted on SSRN their article, Just Cause Discipline for Social Networking in the New Gilded Age: Will the Law Look the Other Way?. The abstract:
We live and work in an era with the moniker of the New Gilded Age to describe the growth in societal income inequality. The designation is not limited to evidence of the growing gap in wealth distribution, but also the sharp rise in employment without security, including contingent and part-time work. This article examines the state of workplace procedural protections against discipline as they relate to employee use of social media in the New Gilded Age. In our times, reactions to the rapid distribution of troublesome electronic communications through social networking tend to eclipse patience for enforceable workplace procedures. The advent of social media and the decline of job security have created a perfect storm that raises the question of whether labor law will look the other way when it comes to the principles of workplace fairness and justice.
The article begins with President William McKinley’s introduction of the doctrine of just cause discipline into American labor law in 1897, during the Gilded Age, at the same time that the common law at-will doctrine was continuing to gestate. McKinley’s unilateral executive action established principles that remain the cornerstone of just cause discipline: proper notice, a fair evidentiary investigation, an opportunity to be heard, and nondiscriminatory treatment. The article then turns to the development of just cause standards in the 20th Century, which added other elements such as notice of workplace policies and the use of progressive discipline. Lastly, the article examines how just cause principles should be applied to allegations of electronic misconduct in the New Gilded Age to ensure reasonable and prudent disciplinary results, employee acceptance of adverse employment decisions, and a decreased likelihood of litigated claims of unlawful discrimination.
I'll confess that I was totally unaware of McKinley's action. Learn about that move and the intersection of just cause and technology in this interesting article.
The National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education's newest edition of the Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy is out. The peer-reviewed journal's latest includes the following articles:
- The Impact of Unionization on University Performance by Mark Cassell and Odeh Halaseh;
- Post-Recession CBAs: A Study of Wage Increases in the Agreements of Four State-wide Faculty Unions by Steve Hicks; and
- Academic Collective Bargaining: Patterns and Trends by Curtis R. Sproul, Neil Bucklew, and Jeffery D. Houghton.
Check it out!