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.

Continue Reading NLRB Reverses Prior Precedent – Expanding Changes Employers Can Make Unilaterally In Union Environment

During a week that brought several notable decisions, the National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling on Friday, December 15, 2017, overturning its controversial 2011 Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011) (“Specialty Healthcare”) decision, which held that in order for employees to be included in a collective bargaining unit, employers had to prove the employees shared an “overwhelming community of interest” with one another.  The unions argued that the “overwhelming community of interest” burden was all but impossible to meet and effectively allowed unions to create “micro-units” of any number, group, or sub-group of employees the unions saw fit.  This in turn meant that an employer could be faced with negotiating collective bargaining agreements with multiple groups of employees who often shared the same schedule, workplace, and general terms and conditions of employment, but nonetheless were represented by different locals or divisions of the same or multiple unions.  In one particularly glaring example, the Board approved a union’s request for separate bargaining units in each of nine different graduate student departments at Yale University despite the fact that the union already represented existing, university-wide bargaining units.

Continue Reading NLRB Overturns Prior Precedent, Eliminates “Micro Units” and Discards “Overwhelming Community of Interest” Standard

The National Labor Relations Board issued a much-anticipated decision on Thursday, overruling its controversial 2015 Browning-Ferris decision that unions and employees argued drastically expanded the definition and scope of the Board’s joint-employer doctrine.  In Browning-Ferris, the Board departed from decades of precedent and held that entities who merely possessed—as opposed to directly and immediately exercised—control over workers would be deemed joint employers for purposes of assessing liability under the National Labor Relations Act.  The Board used the Browning-Ferris decision to expand its reach under the joint-employer doctrine to include, for example, companies that relied on staffing agencies and in some cases, parent companies that did not exercise immediate or direct control over a subsidiary’s workers, but had the potential authority to affect certain terms and conditions of employment.  The Browning-Ferris decision faced heavy criticism from employers as well as an appeal of the decision itself to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Continue Reading NLRB Overrules Browning-Ferris to Reinstate Prior Joint-Employer Standard

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Much has been written about the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial Browning-Ferris decision that significantly expanded the scope of joint employer liability under the National Labor Relations Act. But virtually no attention has been given to the Fourth Circuit’s recent panel decision in Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, Inc., which creates an altogether new and incredibly broad joint employment standard under the Fair Labor Standards Act that makes the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris joint employment standard seem temperate at best.

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On March 6, 2017, an NLRB administrative law judge (“ALJ”) issued a ruling finding that a nonunion automotive manufacturing facility in Alabama violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) when it terminated three employees who walked off the job over a holiday-season scheduling dispute. The ALJ found that the employees were engaged in protected concerted activity despite the fact that they denied discussing the decision to leave work before their shifts had ended.

Continue Reading Another Step in the NLRB’s Mission to Expand the Definition of “Concerted Activity” Under the NLRA

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.

Continue Reading District of Columbia Circuit Hears Oral Argument on Browning-Ferris “Joint Employer” Standard

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The National Labor Relations Board has an 80-plus year history of administering federal labor law and regulating labor-management relations in the United States. Formed in 1935 by the passage of the original Wagner Act, the board’s primary obligations are to oversee the formation of collective bargaining units, to investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, and to establish legal precedent through regulations and binding case precedents. In carrying out its responsibilities, the board is generally expected to act as a neutral arbiter of facts and cases.

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Much has been written about the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial Browning-Ferris decision that significantly expanded the scope of joint employer liability under the National Labor Relations Act. But virtually no attention has been given to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent panel decision in Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, Inc., No. 15-1915 (4th Cir. 2017), which creates an altogether new and incredibly broad joint employment standard under the Fair Labor Standards Act that makes the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris joint employment standard seem temperate at best. Absent a successful appeal to the US Supreme Court or Department of Labor intervention, the Salinas decision could open the floodgates to joint employment FLSA litigation and liability within the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina) and beyond.

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