Driven by the wave of publicity surrounding sexual harassment allegations against prominent artists, executives, news anchors, filmmakers and legislators, and the ensuing #MeToo movement, legislators in California and several other states recently have introduced bills designed to prevent such harassment. Below we summarize four bills introduced in the California Senate and Assembly in January 2018. Employer groups have not yet publicly mounted a challenge to any of these bills, and it is not possible to say which, if any, of these bills will move all the way through the legislative process and be signed into law by the Governor.
Raytheon Network Centric Systems, 365 NLRB No. 161 (Dec. 15, 2017) (“Raytheon”), is one of several decisions issued this month by the National Labor Relations Board’s (the “Board”) new Republican majority which reverse Obama-era precedent. Raytheon overrules the Board’s decision E.I. du Pont de Nemours, 364 NLRB No. 113 (2016) (“DuPont”), which limited the changes employers can make unilaterally in a union environment. Raytheon clarifies the degree to which employers may rely on past practice to make unilateral changes to terms of employment once a collective bargaining agreement has expired, and, more specifically, offers welcome guidance to employers with regard to continuation of health benefits under those circumstances.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) not only prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation, but goes a step farther than similar state laws in its explicit requirement that employers take reasonable steps to prevent and correct such conduct. Cal. Gov’t Code § 12940(k). In 2016, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council promulgated regulations which set forth the required elements of a compliant prevention and correction program (2 CCR §§ 11023-11024), and in May 2017 the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) issued a Workplace Harassment Guide (the “Guide”) to clarify further employers’ obligations under these regulations. The Guide, which is notable for its detailed explanation of workplace investigation procedures, can be accessed here.
The United States Supreme Court recently resolved a Circuit Court split on the appropriate standard of review of a District Court’s decision whether to enforce a subpoena issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). In McLane Co., Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 15-1248, 581 U.S. __ (April 3, 2017), the Court held that such a decision should be reviewed only to determine whether the District Court abused its discretion – a deferential standard of review. This conclusion was fairly uncontroversial. Indeed, the abuse of discretion standard has long been used for review of decisions whether to enforce administrative subpoenas (such as those issued by the National Labor Relations Board). Historically, however, the Ninth Circuit alone has used a de novo standard of review in these circumstances, while the seven other U.S. Courts of Appeal to have addressed this issue all applied the more deferential standard. The Ninth Circuit panel itself questioned why de novo review applied, in light of the substantial authority to the contrary, and the Supreme Court took the case to resolve this circuit split.
On March 9, 2017, the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia heard oral argument in the case entitled Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., d/b/a/ Browning-Ferris Newby Island Recyclery v. National Labor Relations Board, Nos. 16-1028, 16-1063 and 16-1064. (Our prior blogs about this case can be found here.) This appeal challenges the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) new and imprecise standard for determining whether companies are “joint employers” for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. The new standard, first issued in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015), abandons consideration of a company’s direct and immediate control over employees in favor of a fact-specific approach that focuses more on “reserved” or “indirect” control.
In a brief filed on September 7, 2016 (“NLRB Brief”), the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “the Board”) urged the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to uphold its new “joint employer” standard, set forth in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015). Through this new standard, the Board now seeks to impose collective bargaining and other NLRA obligations on companies that may indirectly control certain conditions of employment, or that merely reserve (but do not exercise) such control. Casting aside the more precise “direct and immediate control” standard it explicitly adopted in 1984, the Board in Browning-Ferris opted instead to analyze joint control issues on a fact-specific, case-by-case basis, with a greater focus on reserved and indirect control. The case on appeal is entitled Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., d/b/a/ Browning-Ferris Newby Island Recyclery v. National Labor Relations Board, Nos. 16-1028, 16-1063 and 16-1064.
On Monday, September 19, 2016, the Seattle City Council approved an ordinance (C.B. 118765) designed to bring more stability to the schedules of retail and food service industry workers, who often experience last-minute scheduling changes, loss of paid hours, and back-to-back shifts. The law, which was developed during a series of meetings between the City, business owners and worker advocates, will be codified in Chapter 14.22 of the Seattle Municipal Code and will take effect on July 1, 2017.
A concerned business community has closely followed the NLRB’s shifting views on the concept of “joint employers” – separate companies that are deemed to be so interconnected that they should be treated as one for purposes of labor relations activity and unfair labor practice liability. In August of last year, the NLRB decision in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015), put into place a broad new test that dramatically expands the definition of “joint employer.” Now, an entity will be found to be a joint employer if it exercises only indirect control over the employment terms and conditions of another company’s employees. Indeed, joint employer status can be established if a company simply possesses, but never exercises, the ability to control such terms.
Several new and expanded paid family leave programs signed into law this month present employers with administrative challenges and concerns about business productivity.
California’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) program, which took effect in 2004, was the first of its kind in the nation. Funded by employee contributions to the State Disability Insurance program, and administered through that program, PFL in California provides employees with partial wage replacement (currently 55%, up to a weekly maximum of $1,104 in 2015) for a period of up to six (6) weeks in order to bond with a new child, or to care for a parent, child, spouse or domestic partner with a serious health condition. This wage-replacement program does not guarantee job protection, so normally it is taken concurrently with job-protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or its California analog, the California Family Rights Act.
On March 25, 2016, OSHA published a final rule which significantly reduces the permissible limits of silica dust to which workers can be exposed. The rule will take effect 90 days after publication, and will be codified at 29 CFR Parts 1910, 1915, and 1926.