With the new make-up of the NLRB resulting in three Republicans sitting on the Board there is no doubt in my mind that the Specialty Healthcare standard in determining appropriate bargaining units will be one of the first of the “new standards” to disappear.
Imagine: in a region where hiring and retaining competent employees is becoming increasingly difficult, a multi-national company announces it will build a plant and employ more than 10,000 workers over the next few years. The pressure to get and keep your best employee has just increased, and the ripple effect touches every aspect of this competitive employment situation. Seeking to maintain your competitive position at a time when employees are being wooed to leave, you may want to explore using noncompetition and nonsolicitation agreements, but are they enforceable? What happens when a well-qualified employee applies for an open position, but informs you that she signed a noncompetition, nondisclosure agreement with her current employer? How will that impact your hiring decision?
On August 7, 2017, a Fifth Circuit panel ruled, in a divided decision, that a class-action waiver can be enforceable even without an arbitration agreement being involved. In that case, the Convergys Corporation required its applicants to sign a class-action waiver even though it was not contained in an arbitration agreement. The Convergys Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling rejected a NLRB decision holding that the company cannot require its job applicants to sign class action waivers that prevent them from suing the company.
For many of us who have been watching the changes made in various administrative agencies the appointments by President Trump to fill the two empty positions on the NLRB is a key start in making changes in a number of over-reaching decisions during the Obama administration. With the changeover to a new General Counsel in November the transformation will be complete.
Employers have been frustrated for some time with the numerous case decisions and policies developed by the NLRB in recent years which simply micromanage the workplace. The announcement of these appointments, frankly, is a breath of fresh air after many, many years of putting up with decisions that are not only damaging to the economy, but an embarrassment in terms of the ill-founded basis for many of the opinions which were issued by the Board. We need a much more balanced viewpoint of the workplace and hopefully we are on the right path to make that a reality.
On May 30, 2017, Governor Eric Greitens signed the Fairness in Public Construction Act, SB 182, into law. The Bill was introduced by Senator and Assistant Majority Leader, Bob Ondear and modifies Missouri’s law relating to project labor agreements (“PLAs”).
Under the current law, the State or any agency or political subdivision of the State may require private construction firms that are bidding to work on a public construction project, to enter into a PLA regardless of whether the firm typically uses union labor or not. SB 182 repeals this provision and prevents a state, any agency of the state, any political subdivision, or any instrumentality thereof, from requiring bidders to enter into PLAs.
The Bill prohibits the state and any agency, instrumentality, or political subdivision of the state, from requiring or prohibiting bidders from entering into PLAs when contracting for the construction, repair, remodeling, or demolition of a facility. Moreover, the Bill prohibits the state, any agency, political subdivision, or instrumentality of the state, from encouraging or giving preferential treatment to bidders who enter or refuse to enter into agreements with a labor organization. The Bill further prohibits any discrimination against such bidders for entering or refusing to enter into agreements.
The law takes effect August 28, 2017.
The National Labor Relations Board issued an Order on May 3, 2017 in which it made clear that the Board does not wish to exercise its discretionary authority to expand Weingarten Rights to non-union employees via rule making. The potential for the expansion of the Weingarten Rights to non-union employees has been in place ever since the Board issued its position in 2004 in the case of IBM Corporation, 341 NLRB 1288, whereby it limited Weingarten Rights to union shops. However, this is an issue which the Board has flip-flopped on during most of its existence. At times it has allowed Weingarten to be applied in a non-union setting, and then changed its mind and reverted back to the current situation where Weingarten only applies in a union environment. Regardless of the motivation behind making this determination, it is good news that the Board, at this point in time, has decided not to expand Weingarten to the vast majority of the workplaces.
More and more it seems disputes are occurring over what information the EEOC may subpoena from employers. On April 3, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in McLane Co. v. EEOC, weighing in on the standard of review on appeal when district courts either enforce or quash an EEOC subpoena. Last week in a post on our Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation Industry Insider, Stephen Cockerham and Leslie Brockhoeft discussed the process of appealing such an issue and provided insight and background on the case itself.
Several recent updates regarding the new Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule have caused confusion for our clients. On March 1, 2017, the DOL announced a proposed delay of the new fiduciary rule and prohibited transaction exemptions that were set to become applicable on April 10, 2017. The DOL requested that all comments on the proposed delay be submitted by March 17, 2017. Once the DOL reviews the comments, it will publish a final rule, which could either retain the April 10 applicability date or delay the applicability date 60 days or more.
In addition, the DOL will conduct economic and legal analysis that could change the requirements of the rule.
It is not certain when the DOL will publish its final rule. On March 10, 2017, the DOL issued Field Assistance Bulletin 2017-01, which provides that the DOL will not enforce the rule as of April 10 if a rule is issued after that date and delays the applicability date. If there is no delay in the applicability date, the DOL will not enforce the rule if affected parties comply with the requirements within a “reasonable period.” Importantly, however, the guidance does not shield advisors or financial institutions from private lawsuits.
We outline a brief summary of the rule and provide client recommendations in a white paper on the topic.
Employers subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) must proceed cautiously in determining how to handle dues checkoff and employee communications following implementation of any right-to-work laws. A recent decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declares that contractual dues checkoff provisions are not union security devices and thus may be enforceable despite a right-to-work law. Metalcraft of Mayville, Inc. v. District Lodge No. 10, 18-CA-178322 (2017) (Muhl, ALJ). The ALJ in Metalcraft interpreted Wisconsin’s right-to-work statute such that an employer could not unilaterally refuse to enforce dues checkoff, despite the existence of a state right-to-work law prohibiting such deductions. Instead, the ALJ found that the NLRA pre-empted state law, so dues checkoff remains a mandatory subject of bargaining, governed by federal law, regardless of the existence of a state right-to-work law prohibiting fees being deducted. And so the employer acted unlawfully in unilaterally discontinuing such deductions in violation of §8(a)5 of the NLRA.
Further, the Metalcraft decision also serves as an important reminder to employers to exercise caution in corresponding with employees about right-to-work laws. The ALJ held that a series of notices to employees containing employer-drafted questions and answers about the new right-to-work law violated §§8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA by undermining employees’ confidence in the union and directly dealing with employees. In that case, the employer presented no evidence it was responding to actual questions or requests for revocation of dues checkoff from employees; it phrased several questions in a manner disparaging the union; and it requested new authorizations for dues checkoff directly from employees.
The ALJ’s findings are consistent with other recent cases which have addressed the issue. In United Auto., Aerospace & Agric. Implement Workers of Am. Local 3047 v. Hardin Cty., Kentucky, the Sixth Circuit held that a county could not prohibit dues checkoff or hiring hall agreements because they were preempted by the NLRA, regardless of the existence of a valid right-to-work law. 842 F.3d 407, 410 (6th Cir. 2016). Similarly, an appeal is pending before the Seventh Circuit of a District Court decision which held, among other things, that dues checkoff does not amount to compulsory unionism and the NLRA preempts any regulation that imposes more stringent requirements than federal law. Int’l Union of Operating Engineers, Local 399, AFL–CIO v. Vill. of Lincolnshire, Illinois, No. 16 C 2395, 2017 WL 75742, at *11 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 7, 2017).
Employers with questions about how to handle dues checkoff or employee communications in preparation for implementation of right-to-work laws can contact a member of Husch Blackwell’s Labor and Employment team. For more information about right-to-work, see Husch Blackwell’s blog post: Right-to-Work in Missouri – What Does It All Mean?
Although MSHA and OSHA are members of the same governmental group, their respective areas of authority and the industries affected by them can cause misperceptions. In a recent article via ROCK Products, Safety and Health attorneys Brad Hiles and Ben McMillen explain the inter-agency agreement between MSHA and OSHA, outline “blurred line” cases and the factors typically examined by courts and commissions in such cases.