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Contractor’s Employees Deemed "Statutorily Protected Employees" and Permitted to Handbill Under new "Access Standard"

A group of restaurant employees engaged in handbilling on casino premises as a part of an organizing campaign by Las Vegas unions. Although not employed by the casino itself, the employees worked on casino property and handbilled in front of restaurants operated by their employer on behalf of the casino. The casino asked the employees to cease their organizing efforts. The employees refused, prompting a visit from the police, who issued citations and removed the employees from the premises. The employees alleged unfair labor practices against the casino. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that the casino had, in fact, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by prohibiting the handbilling and that the restaurant employees were rightfully on the property as they worked regularly and exclusively on it. In reaching its decision, the NLRB developed an “access standard,” which strikes a balance between the rights of the contractor employees and the property owner’s rights. Under the “access standard,” the property owner may lawfully exclude handbilling on its property, but only where the property owner demonstrates that the activity significantly interferes with the use of the property or where exclusion is justified by a legitimate business reason. Here, the NLRB determined that the casino failed to make the requisite showing and thus violated NLRA Section 8(a)(1) when it prohibited the restaurant employees from handbilling on the premises. Employers should be mindful that the right to organize may extend to more than the employer’s own employees, and that the employer’s contractor’s employees may be “statutorily protected” in their organizing activities.

New York, New York Hotel and Casino, 356 NLRB No. 109 (NLRB Mar. 25, 2011)