Blog Archives

Tesla Gets a Dressing Down by the NLRB

On August 29, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) issued a decision in Tesla, Inc. regarding dress code policies that further the Biden Board’s efforts to remake NLRB policy. This decision has big implications for employers that maintain appearance, dress code, and uniform policies. The Board’s decision now firmly establishes that any employer’s uniform or dress code policy is inherently unlawful if it can be read “in any way” to prohibit employees from wearing union insignia unless an employer can prove that its policy is justified by special circumstances. It is irrelevant whether the employer’s policy has ever been applied to prohibit union t-shirts or the employer actively permits union buttons or other insignia. Further, and critical to a broader understanding of the implications of this decision, it is also irrelevant whether the workplace is unionized or even being actively unionized.

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NLRB General Counsel Pushes to Skip Union Elections by Reinstating Joy Silk Doctrine

Employees’ free choice and their right to a secret-ballot election on union membership are potentially at risk, given the latest development from the Office of the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”). On April 11, 2022, the NLRB’s General Counsel filed a brief urging a change in long-standing precedent, demanding that the Board force employers to recognize unions as the representative of their employees without first allowing employees the opportunity to cast their votes on union membership in a secret-ballot election held by the Board. The only real requirement for this dramatic result is that the union present signed authorization cards from a majority of the employees that ostensibly confirm the employees’ desire to be represented by the union and that the employer decline recognition of the union without a good faith doubt as to the union’s majority. This brief is General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo’s first major move to follow through on her previously stated goal of restoring this standard—known as the Joy Silk doctrine—which was abandoned more than 50 years ago.

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NLRB General Counsel Urges Labor Board to Expand Prohibition on “Captive Audience” Meetings and Employers’ Right to Present Their Views on Unionization

On April 7, 2022, Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”), issued Memorandum GC 22-04, titled “The Right to Refrain from Captive Audience and other Mandatory Meetings” (“GC Memo”). It is no secret that the General Counsel has been an advocate for policies and practices that would increase union representation and make it easier for unions to gain recognition and win votes on representation. This includes restricting steps employers can take to share their views with employees. Such a step that the GC Memo calls for is a series of restrictions on what have been called “captive audience speeches,” that is, meetings on company time where employers present their views.

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Epstein Becker Green Submits Comment Arguing Against Continuing Inefficient and Ineffective Remote NLRB Hearings

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently sought public comments on the continued use of videoconference technology to conduct hearings. The co-chairs of Epstein Becker Green’s Labor Management Relations Practice submitted the attached comment arguing against continuing remote hearings because they are less efficient, credible, austere and probative and deprive all parties of due process.  Not surprisingly, the NLRB Division of Judges also submitted comments confirming the inadequacies of remote hearings.

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Supreme Court Rejects OSHA Vax-or-Test ETS for Large Employers but Allows CMS Vax Rule for Health Care Workers

As explained in greater detail by our colleague Stuart M. Gerson, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down two major, and quickly decided, rulings on January 13, 2022. After hearing oral arguments only six days earlier, the Court issued two unsigned decisions per curiam. A 5-4 decision in Biden v. Missouri dissolved a preliminary injunction against enforcement of an interim final rule (“Rule”) promulgated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), requiring recipients of federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to ensure that their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.

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NLRB Says Employers Covered by OSHA ETS Have Options, Triggering Duty to Bargain

Last week, as widely reported, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to Protect Workers from the COVID-19 (see full details in our Insight). Currently the subject of much pending litigation including a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and thus, for the time being, in limbo, the ETS is nonetheless a set of federal regulations that, unless overturned, applies to a large proportion of U.S. employers with 100 or more workers and requires those employers to either: (a) mandate that all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or (b)  have a policy allowing unvaccinated employees to  continue working, so long as they test for the virus at least weekly and wear masks in shared workspaces. With a relatively short timeframe for compliance, the ETS has raised questions from those at both sides of the labor relations table, leading the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to issue an Operations-Management Memo (OM 22-03 or “the Memo”) on November 10, 2021 explaining its position on the duty to bargain over these matters.

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NLRB General Counsel Jennifer A. Abruzzo Issues “Mandatory Submissions to Advice” and “Utilization of Section 10(j) Proceedings” Memos, Outlining Her Priorities and Enforcement Agenda

On August 12, 2021, Jennifer A. Abruzzo issued her first memorandum as newly sworn National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) General Counsel. The memo, Mandatory Submissions to Advice, Memorandum GC 21-04 (“GC Memo 21-04”), serves as a road map of the new General Counsel’s plans and her intent to depart from the priorities of her predecessor, Peter Robb, and to target cases and initiatives from the Trump Board that overruled the precedent from the Obama Board. As we have previously reported, President Biden, on the day of his inauguration, took the unprecedented step of firing Mr. Robb from the General Counsel position, a clear indicator of his intention for a significant change in direction for the NLRB to a more union-friendly agenda.

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How the PRO Act Could Change Labor Law – Employment Law This Week Video

As featured in #WorkforceWednesday:  This week, we look at the potential “game changing” legal and policy shifts coming to labor relations.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, if enacted, would make the most significant changes to the National Labor Relations Act since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was created in 1935. The PRO Act is a top priority of the union movement in the United States and is supported by President Biden, who claims to be the most pro-union president in U.S. history.  Attorney Steve Swirsky discusses the potential impact the PRO Act could have on employers. Beyond the PRO Act, Steve also looks at how Jennifer Abruzzo’s confirmation as NLRB general counsel could impact the agency’s litigation and enforcement agenda.

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Senate Confirms Biden Nominee Jennifer Abruzzo as NLRB General Counsel, Paving Way for Pro-Union Shift

On July 21, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed Jennifer Abruzzo to a four-year term as the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”). Ms. Abruzzo’s confirmation was by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Ms. Abruzzo was sworn in the next day, by NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran. As the NLRB notes, this is “the first time in NLRB history women are serving as both Chairman and General Counsel” of the agency.

Ms. Abruzzo has spent much of her career at the NLRB. She previously served as the Board’s Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel during the Obama administration, and most recently served as Special Counsel for Strategic Initiatives to the Communication Workers of America (“CWA”), the country’s largest communications and media labor union. The CWA, like most other unions, is a strong supporter of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, commonly referred to as the “PRO Act.”

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NLRB’s Division of Advice Concludes That Employee’s COVID-19 Policy Complaints Are Not Protected Concerted Activity

On June 15, 2021, the Office of General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) released an Advice Memorandum, explaining that an Illinois pub did not commit an unfair labor practice when it fired an employee who had previously complained about the pub’s COVID-19 safety policies, because the employee’s complaints did not constitute “protected concerted activity,” as defined under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The NLRA protects employees engaged in concerted activity, including participating in union activities and union organizing and other activities that the Board considers to be for their mutual aid and protection. Peter Sung Ohr, since his appointment as the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel following the discharge of his predecessor, Peter Robb, by President Joseph Biden, has taken a far broader view than his predecessors as to the types of subjects to which Section 7 of the NLRA’s protections apply. In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, what constitutes concerted activity remains uncertain. The Advice Memorandum sheds light on how the Board may define concerted activity moving forward in the context of employee responses to COVID-19 workplace policies.

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