We have reported on several Board decisions issued by a new Republican majority in the final days of 2017, but questions remain as to what issues the Board will address next to scale back on Obama-era precedent. In recent weeks, Republican Board Members have provided some hints in a pair of footnotes in two unpublished decisions.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) seeking to repeal a 2011 rule that significantly impacted the compensation of hospitality workers. Specifically, the NPRM proposes to allow hospitality employers to control the distribution of the tips they pool assuming their employees are paid the full minimum wage. By way of background, the FLSA requires employers to pay employees a minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) plus overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. Employees who “customarily and regularly receive tips” must still receive the minimum wage, but employers may elect to take a “tip credit” by counting up to $5.12 per hour of those employees’ tips toward the minimum wage, meaning employers may pay a reduced wage of $2.13 to tipped employees. Historically, employers that take the tip credit have been prohibited from sharing money from a tip-pooling system to employees who do not traditionally receive direct tips (cooks, dish washers, etc.). In 2011, the DOL extended the tip-pooling prohibition to apply to employers even if they do not take the tip credit and pay their employees the full federal minimum wage.
Hunton & Williams recently published an entry on its Retail Law Resource Blog regarding what employers can expect from Victoria Lipnic, the new acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and an EEOC Commissioner since 2010. Since that publication, Lipnic has made public comments as to what she envisions from the EEOC under her leadership. Several key topics from those comments are summarized below:
Employers should be aware of a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that overly broad confidentiality and nondisparagement policies violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The case, Quicken Loans v. NLRB, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13778 (D.C. Cir.), involved an employment policy which prohibited employees from using or disclosing a broad range of personnel information without Quicken’s prior written consent or to criticize publicly the company and its management. The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) determined that those rules ran afoul of Section 7 of the NLRA because they “unreasonably burden the employees’ ability to discuss legitimate employment matters, to protest employer practices, and to organize.” Quicken then appealed the NLRB’s decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The issue of religious background has generated substantial discussion during the current election cycle. Recently, the federal government highlighted the issue of religious discrimination and accommodation in the workplace.
On July 22, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced the release of a one-page fact sheet specifically designed to educate young workers of their rights and responsibilities under the federal employment anti-discrimination laws prohibiting religious discrimination. The fact sheet stresses that employers may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion, and notes that employees have a right to ask that certain workplace accommodations be made to respect their religious preferences. Also outlined by the sheet are various examples of proper and improper employment practices under federal law. The fact sheet encourages employees to report suspected religious-based discrimination.
In Danbury Hospital (Case 01-RC-153086), after an initial election victory for the employer, an NLRB Regional Director ordered a second election as a result of the employer’s non-compliance with the new ambush election rules. In doing so, the NLRB again demonstrates why employers should be vigilant and proactive in preparing for an election long before the arrival of a union petition.
Under the new rules, employers must, within two business days after the approval of an election agreement or the issuance of a Direction of Election, submit a voter list of employees’ “available” personal email addresses and personal cell phone numbers. These requirements differ from the old election rules in that previously, the employer was only required to provide a voter list of the employees’ full names and home addresses within seven calendar days after the approval of an election agreement or the issuance of a Direction of Election.
On October 19, 2015, the Judges Division of the NLRB updated its 2010 ALJ Bench Book by issuing a new 2015 edition. The Bench Book serves as a procedural and evidentiary reference for ALJs and litigants during and in preparation for NLRB trials. As such, the Bench Book, and the precedent and authorities within, are often cited to throughout the course of litigation at an NLRB trial.