Friday, December 12, 2014
Doesn't the NLRB know this is a busy week for me? First was yesterday's e-mail decision in Purple Communications. Today, the NLRB released new final rules to reform the representation process. As readers are well aware, this is Version 2.0 for the representation rulemaking process, which was initially caught up in challenges over NLRB member appointments. The NLRB decided to drop the rules rather than fight the challenge. Some commentators (ahem) thought that the critics should beware of what they ask for because the NLRB could come back with stronger rules. The Board proposed just such a set of rules in February. The Board has now adopted them in a final rule. I haven't had time to compare the proposed and final rules side-by-side, but they look substantially the same at first glance.
Although these rules are somewhat broader than the ones in 2011, I should note that they aren't a surprise, as they track the NLRB initial proposed rules in 2011, which the Board eased back on a bit in their final rules. The Board's information site on this year's rules has a very helpful chart comparing the old and new rules that you should definitely check out (but doesn't copy well on the blog). Instead, I am copying the Board's summaries of the changes below; the full set of final rules is here.
One final note. In spite of what critics will argue, these rules do not set up "ambush elections." Instead, the NLRB is proposing modest reforms to eliminate unwarranted delay in the election process, both before an election is run and appeals to a completed election. They are also doing basic modernization reforms, such as allowing electronic filing and including e-mail addresses in the Exclesior list, among other things. There will still be plenty of time for unions and employers to express their views on unionization and for employees to make an informed decision. There will just be somewhat less time for employers fight the union with captive-audience meetings and other aggressive tactics, some of which are illegal but difficult to remedy. Employers will still have time for those strategies, just not as much. The rules will also lessen the amount of time that employers can stall after a union wins an election--time that is often vital to a union trying to maintain support. Finally, many critics will be people who argued against card-check elections by waving the banner of fair secret-ballot elections. This is exactly what the Board is doing here by making the secret-ballot process fairer and lessening unnecessary delay.
Hat Tip: Patrick Kavanagh
Here's the summary:
Modernizing Board Procedures
Electronic Filing/Communications – Parties may file documents, such as petitions, electronically, rather than by fax or mail. Parties and the NLRB’s regional offices can transmit documents electronically, rather than using slower or more expensive forms of communications, such as mail or express delivery services.
Election Voter List – The employer must include available personal email addresses and phone numbers of voters on the voter list in order to permit non-employer parties to communicate with prospective voters about the upcoming election using modern forms of communication.
Streamlining Board Procedure and Reducing Unnecessary Litigation
Identifying Disputed Issues – The non-petitioning parties will be required to respond to the petition and state their positions generally the day before the pre-election hearing opens. The petitioner will be required to respond to the issues raised by the non-petitioning parties at the opening of the hearing. Litigation inconsistent with the positions taken by the parties will generally not be allowed.
Litigation of Eligibility and Inclusion Issues – Generally, only issues necessary to determine whether an election should be conducted will be litigated in a pre-election hearing. A regional director may defer litigation of eligibility and inclusion issues affecting a small percentage of the appropriate voting unit to the post-election stage if those issues do not have to be resolved in order to determine if an election should be held. In many cases, those issues will not need to be litigated because they have no impact on the results of the election.
Post Hearing Oral Argument and Briefs – All parties will be provided with an opportunity for oral argument before the close of the hearing. Written briefs will be allowed only if the regional director determines they are necessary.
Review of Regional Director Rulings – The parties may seek review of all regional representation-case rulings through a single post-election request, if the election results have not made those rulings moot. The election will no longer be stayed after the regional director issues a decision and direction of election, in the absence of an order from the Board.
Review Standard for Post-election Issues – The Board will have the discretion to deny review of regional director post-election rulings, under the same standard that has governed Board review of regional director pre-election rulings for many years.
Increasing Transparency and Standardizing Board Process
Earlier and more complete information to the parties – When the petitioner files its petition, it will be required to simultaneously serve a copy of the petition, along with a more detailed Agency description of representation case procedures and an Agency Statement of Position form, on all parties identified in its petition in order to provide them with the earliest possible notice of the filing of the petition and Board procedures for processing those petitions. NLRB regional offices will serve a Notice of Hearing and a Notice of Petition for Election (along with a copy of the petition, description of representation case procedures and the Statement of Position form) on all parties. The non-petitioning parties will be required to respond to the petition (generally the day before the hearing opens) by filing with the regional director and serving on the other parties a Statement of Position identifying the issues they have with the petition. As part of its Statement of Position, the employer will be required to provide all other parties with a list of prospective voters, their job classifications, shifts and work locations.
Earlier and more complete information to employees - The employer is required to post a Notice of Petition for Election containing more detailed information on the filing of the petition and employee rights within two business days of the region’s service of the petition. The Notice of Election will provide prospective voters with more detailed information about the election and the voting process.
Scheduling of Hearings – Except in cases presenting unusually complex issues, pre-election hearings will generally be set to open 8 days after a hearing notice is served on the parties. Post-election hearings will generally open 14 days after objections are filed.