Tag Archives: employees

SCOTUS considers whether union neutrality agreements violate Labor Law

The U.S. Supreme Court considered whether “neutrality agreements” between unions and employers violate federal labor law.  Neutrality agreements are contracts between labor unions and employers under which the employers agree to support a union’s attempt to organize its workforce.

In Unite Here Local 355 v. Muhall, the Supreme Court will decide whether these agreements are a “thing of value.”  This definition matters because under Labor Law the exchange of things of value between a labor union and an employer are a felony.  Further, it is a crime for a union to request, demand, receive or accept or agree to receive or accept, any payment, loan, or delivery of any money or other thing of value prohibited by the statute.

Under the agreements, businesses help labor unions in organization efforts in exchange for labor peace, the New York Times reports. The Washington Post offers some examples: An employer might grant access to employee lists or agree to remain neutral in exchange for union concessions, such as giving up the right to strike.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was a “thing of value” because it includes tangibles and intangibles.  In other words, while the employer and the union can agree on the ground rules, the assistance in this case would constitute payment.

The assistance the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals referred to was as follows.  The casino (employer) agreed to allow union access to worker information and casino grounds, and to allow a unionization vote by cards collected from workers, rather than a secret ballot. The union agreed to refrain from picketing or striking during the union drive.

It is important to note that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to take into consideration whether there was monetary value.

What is mind boggling is the fact that neutrality agreements are not only common, but they help avoid conflict and encourages the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.  The preamble of the National Labor Relations Act supports labor peace and the encouragement of the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.

The outcome of this contentious and heavily litigated case remains unknown.  The Supreme Court, specifically Justice Roberts, focused on the card-check portion of the neutrality agreement.  Justice Kagan focused on how the benefits bargained by the union benefit employees and unions.

via SCOTUS considers whether union neutrality agreements are improper ‘thing of value’.

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Home Health Care Rule and FLSA

Starting January 1, 2015 home care aides are not exempt from Wage and Overtime laws.  The Department of Labor released a press release discussing this wage and hour change as well as unveiling a new web portal with interactive tools.  The web portal for Home Care can be accessed here.

In the DOL’s press release, DOL stated,

This change will result in nearly two million direct care workers – such as home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants – receiving the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers.

The DOL also explained that this wage and hour new rule did not apply to companionship workers.  The DOL stated,

The final rule also clarifies that direct care workers who perform medically-related services for which training is typically a prerequisite are not companionship workers and therefore are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime.

And, in accordance with Congress’ initial intent, individual workers who are employed only by the person receiving services or that person’s family or household and engaged primarily in fellowship and protection (providing company, visiting or engaging in hobbies) and care incidental to those activities, will still be considered exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime protections.

The final rule can be accessed here.

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Targeting Union Employees For Layoffs Violates The First Amendment

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals brings an interesting labor decision.  In State Employee Bargaining Coalitation v. Roland, ___F.3d___( 2d Cir. May 31, 2013), the court found that targeting Union employees for layoffs violates the First Amendment (freedom of association).

In this case, the employer employed around 50,000 people.  75% of these employees were members of the Union, and 25% were not.  In December 2002, the employer fired only Union employees.  No non-Union employees were fired.

It is important to note that an employer can manage the size of their work force.  However, the employer cannot target a protected group (here, employees who associated themselves with the Union).  The reason for this is because by targeting a protected group, the effect is to inhibit employees from their freedom to associate.

Under the Constitution, in order for the employer to not violate the Constitution it must show that they used the less restrictive means to accomplish their interest and must be narrowly tailored to achieve their goals.

The following are the pivotal facts of this case.  The employer’s interest was to manage their economical situation.  However, the laying off those Union employees had a minimal effect on their budget.  In fact, these Union-only lay offs were not included in the Balanced Budget Plan.  Further, the facts showed that because both Union and non-Union employees had the same health care and pension benefits there was no reason why only the Union employees were targeted.

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Targeting Union Employees For Layoffs Violates The First Amendment.

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Unionization Rates Continue to Decline

On January 23, 2013, the BLS released its annual report on the rate of unionization. Overall, the rate of unionization feel from 11.8% to 11.3%. Public sector workers had a 35.8 percent membership rate while the rate on unionization in the private sector dropped to 6.6%.

Significantly, however, union members continue to earn more than there non-union counterparts. As the report states:

In 2012, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $943, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $742.

In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, this earnings difference reflects a variety of influences, including variations in the distribution sof union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, firm size, or geographic region.

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Breaking News. Unionization Rates Continue to Decline.

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NLRB recent decisions

This is the list of the most recent and significant decisions decided by the NLRB:

Hispanics United of BuffaloThe Board found that the employer unlawfully fired five employees because of their Facebook posts and comments about a coworker who intended to complain to management about their work performance. In its analysis, the Board majority applied settled Board law to the new world of social media, finding that the Facebook conversation was concerted activity and was protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Member Hayes dissented.

Alan Ritchey, Inc. – In a unanimous decision that resolved the last of the two-member cases returned following the 2010 Supreme Court decision in New Process Steel, the Board found that where there is no collectively-bargained grievance-arbitration system in place, employers generally must give the union notice and an opportunity to bargain before imposing discipline such as a discharge or suspension on employees. Member Hayes was recused.

Latino Express In a decision that will affect most cases in which backpay is awarded, the Board decided to require respondents to compensate employees for any extra taxes they have to pay as a result of receiving the backpay in a lump sum. The Board will also require an employer ordered to pay back wages to file with the Social Security Administration a report allocating the back wages to the years in which they were or would have been earned. The Board requested briefs in this case in July 2012. Member Hayes did not participate in the case.

Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy – Rejecting the position of a teachers’ union, the Board found that it had jurisdiction over an Illinois non-profit corporation that operates a public charter school in Chicago. The non-profit was not the sort of government entity exempt from the National Labor Relations Act, the Board majority concluded, and there was no reason for the Board to decline jurisdiction. Member Hayes dissented in part.

United Nurses & Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital) – The Board, with Member Hayes dissenting, addressed several issues involving the rights of nonmember dues objectors under the Supreme Court’s Beck decision. On the main issue, the majority held that, like all other union expenses, lobbying expenses are chargeable to objectors, to the extent that they are germane to collective bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment. The Board invited further briefing from interested parties on the how it should define and apply the germaneness standard in the context of lobbying activities.

WKYC-TV, Gannet Co. Applying the general rule against unilateral employer changes in terms and conditions of employment, the Board found that an employer’s obligation to collect union dues under a check-off agreement will continue after the contract expires and before a bargaining impasse occurs or a new contract is reached. Member Hayes dissented.

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Recent Notable NLRB decisions

This is a really good article I came across —-

 

Recent Notable National Labor Relations Board Decisions

By James Hays and Rebecca Hirschklau

While many have been enjoying well deserved summer vacations, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has been busy. In the past two weeks the NLRB has issued decisions regarding investigative confidentiality directives and the permissible scope of the well-recognized “at-will” statement.

A. Confidentiality Directives During Internal Investigations
In Banner Health Systems d/b/a Banner Estrella Medical Center and James Navarro, 358 NLRB 93 (2012), the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) declared that a blanket statement to employees that the contents of a complaint and/or investigation should not be discussed with co-workers was in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) as restrictive of an employee’s rights arising under Section 7 of the NLRA. [1]

In Banner Health Systems, an employee made a complaint concerning instructions he had received from his supervisor that he felt were not proper and would endanger patients. After the employee had made the complaint, he was told by the human resources consultant not to discuss the matter with his coworkers while the employer was investigating the complaint. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found, among other things, that this prohibition was not in violation of Section 8(a)(1), the NLRB disagreed.

While it is generally a standard investigative protocol to advise an interviewee to keep the subject matter of the interview confidential during the investigative process, the NLRB found that the employer had failed to show that the desire for confidentiality out-weighed the employee’s Section 7 rights. Rather, the NLRB held that in order to minimize the restrictive nature of the prohibition on communication, the employer must first determine whether in any given investigation: “(i) witnesses needed protection; (ii) evidence was in danger of being destroyed; (iii) testimony was in danger of being fabricated; or (iv) there was a need to prevent a cover up.”

In light of the NLRB’s Banner Health Systems, decision, employers should be aware that mere protection of the investigation may no longer be sufficient to justify a blanket prohibition. Instead, an employer must make a case-by-case, witness-by-witness, determination of the above four factors before prohibiting an employee from discussing the investigation and/or complaint with his/her coworkers. Individually analyzing these four factors should ensure that the prohibition on discussion will be justified.

B. Employment At-Will Statement in Employee Handbook Acknoweldgement

In American Red Cross Arizona Blood Services Region and Lois Hampton, Case 28-CA-23443, (2012) a NLRB Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held that a statement in an employee handbook acknowledgment form concerning the permanence of the employee’s at-will employment status was in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA as restrictive of an employee’s rights arising under Section 7 of the NLRA.

In American Red Cross, the employer’s Agreement and Acknowledgment of Receipt of Employee Handbook form contained the following language: “I further agree that the at-will employment relationship cannot be amended, modified or altered in any way.” The ALJ noted that where an employer’s rule is likely to have a chilling effect on Section 7 rights, the Board may conclude that its maintenance is an unfair labor practice even in the absence of evidence of enforcement.

Analyzing the language in the handbook acknowledgment form under the two-step inquiry utilized for determining whether an employer’s rule violates the NLRA, the ALJ found that “in his view” there was no doubt that employees would reasonably construe the language to prohibit Section 7 activity. The ALJ found that the acknowledgment form was essentially a waiver in which an employee agrees that his/her at-will employment can never change, thereby relinquishing any rights to advocate concertedly, whether represented by a union or not.

While it remains to be seen whether this case will be reviewed by the NLRB, employers should be mindful of and review the employment at-will language contained in their employee handbooks and acknowledgment forms. One fix for employers is to ensure that your standard “at-will” statements do not include a permanent ban on future amendments – something akin to the language reflecting that the at-will employment status can be changed only with the approval of an officer of the employer should surface and/or simply omitting any reference regarding the permanence of the at-will status.

 


[1] Section 7 provides that “[e]mployees shall have the right to self-organization, to for, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.”

 

 

via Labor Employment Law Blog: Recent Notable National Labor Relations Board Decisions.

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NLRB Issues Notice Posting Final Rule

The NLRB, until now, was the only major federal employment agency that did not require that employers post of notice of employee rights under the statute. This has all changed. The Board issued a final rule to be codified at 29 CFR Part 104 which mandates that employers post this notice, here. The rule published in the Federal Registar is a 194 pages long and mostly documents the Board’s rule making authority.

In a nutshell, the rule provides:

All employers subject to the NLRA must post notices to employees, in conspicuous places, informing them of their NLRA rights, together with Board contact information and information concerning basic enforcement procedures, in the language set forth in the Appendix to Subpart A of this part. (b) Size and form requirements. The notice to employees shall be at least 11 inches by 17 inches in size, and in such format, type size, and style as the Board shall prescribe. If an employer chooses to print the notice after downloading it from the Board’s Web site, the printed notice shall be at least 11 inches by 17 inches in size.

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: NLRB Issues Notice Posting Final Rule.

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NLRB Final Rule

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a Final Rule that will require employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act as of November 14, 2011.

Private-sector employers (including labor organizations) whose workplaces fall under the National Labor Relations Act will be required to post the employee rights notice where other workplace notices are typically posted. Also, employers who customarily post notices to employees regarding personnel rules or policies on an internet or intranet site will be required to post the Board’s notice on those sites. Copies of the notice will be available from the Agency’s regional offices, and it may also be downloaded from the NLRB website.

The notice, which is similar to one required by the U.S. Department of Labor for federal contractors, states that employees have the right to act together to improve wages and working conditions, to form, join and assist a union, to bargain collectively with their employer, and to refrain from any of these activities. It provides examples of unlawful employer and union conduct and instructs employees how to contact the NLRB with questions or complaints.

The Board received approximately 6,500 comments during the 60-day comment period following publication of the Proposed Rule in the Federal Register, and accepted an additional 500 that arrived after the deadline. In response to the comments, some parts of the rule were modified. For example, employers will not be required to distribute the notice via email, voice mail, text messaging or related electronic communications even if they customarily communicate with their employees in that manner, and they may post notices in black and white as well as in color. The final rule also clarifies requirements for posting in foreign languages. Similar postings of workplace rights are required under other federal workplace laws

via Workplace Prof Blog.

 

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