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Unpacking the Supreme Court's Janus Decision

The United States Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee Council 31 on June 27, 2018.  The five to four majority held that requiring public-sector employees who are not union members to pay union agency fees violates the First Amendment.  In the final paragraphs of the majority opinion, the Court made it clear that in the context of a public sector employer-union relationship, non-member employees in the bargaining unit must provide express consent before union dues can be deducted from their paychecks.  Janus' implications for public employers are wide-ranging. However, the immediate question that unionized public-sector employers must address is how to administer existing agency fee provisions in collective bargaining agreements and distinguish between union members and non-members, whose express consent is now required before union dues can be deducted from their paychecks.  It is important to note that this decision is grounded in constitutional principles and only applies to public sector unionized employees. More ›

Lawful, Unlawful, or It Depends? NLRB Issues New Guidance on Employer Policies Affecting Section 7 Rights

Earlier this month, the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) General Counsel issued Memorandum GC-18-04 providing guidance on handbook rules in light of the Board’s Boeing Company decision. In Boeing, the Board reevaluated when a seemingly neutral work rule, handbook rule, or employment policy violates the rights of workers granted by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In doing so, it adopted a new test balancing the negative impact a given rule may have on an employee’s ability to exercise his or her Section 7 rights versus the employer’s right to maintain a disciplined and productive workplace. It also laid out three categories of rules: those that are always lawful, those that are usually always unlawful, and those it depends-type rules falling into the middle category. The GC’s guidance sorts common workplace policies into these three buckets. More ›

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Green Lights Right-to-Work Law

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals lifted an injunction entered by the lower court freezing enforcement of 2015 Wisconsin Act 1, Wisconsin’s “Right-to-Work” law, dealing a blow to unions across the state. More ›

Hold the Mayo: Jimmy John's Workers' Disparaging Statements Not Protected by the NLRA Says 8th Circuit

How far can employees go during a labor dispute to make their case to the public? For years the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has granted employees a surprising amount of leeway, so long as their statements were not made with malicious intent and pertained to an ongoing labor dispute. In other words, employees could go quite far. Fortunately for employers, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently tamped down this enthusiasm and redirected the NLRB to long-standing Supreme Court precedent. More ›

Who Invited You? OSHA Reverses Itself on Fairfax Memo

OSHA recently announced it will no longer bring union representatives to inspections of non-unionized workplaces.  As a result, barring a designation by an employee (which I'll discuss further below), non-unionized employers no longer have reason to fear that an OSHA compliance officer will appear at the door accompanied by a union representative on an inspection or walk-around. More ›

Tilting The Battlefield: NLRB Makes it Easier for Unions to Challenge use of Permanent Replacements

The National Labor Relations Board ("Board") recently denied review of its ruling in American Baptist Homes. That ruling upended the decades-old bright line test that an "independent unlawful purpose" is established only when an employer’s hiring of permanent replacements is unrelated to, or extrinsic to, the strike.  Specifically, the Board ruled the General Counsel is not required to show an employer was motivated by an unlawful purpose extrinsic to the strike; he need only show the hiring of permanent replacements was "motivated by a purpose prohibited by the Act." What constitutes a "prohibited purpose" is open to interpretation, and American Baptist Homes strongly signals employers could be exposed to unfair labor practice charges if there is any allegation that the use of permanent replacements is motivated by an intent to interfere with the exercise of Section 7 rights. More ›

NLRB Makes it Easier to Unionize Temporary Workers

On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board made it easier for unions to organize temporary workers in a 3-1 decision in the case Miller & Anderson. In doing so, the Board reversed its ruling in Oakwood Care Center, 343 NLRB 659 (2004) and returned to the standard established in M.B. Sturgis, Inc., 331 NLRB 1298 (2000).  More ›

Department of Labor's Persuader Rule Convinces No One

Late last month, the Department of Labor published its "persuader" regulation final rule, which significantly strengthens a union's rights under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMDRA"). 

Generally, the LMDRA regulates the public reporting obligations of businesses seeking legal and non-legal counsel to oppose or manage relations with unions. A consultant, known as a "persuader," helps an employer navigate organizing drives and labor disputes. Before this final rule, The LMDRA required "direct" persuader activities to be reported, such as meetings between the persuader and employees, but exempted "indirect" activities, such as the preparation of materials for the employer to provide to its employees. More ›

Is Labor Law Putting the Franchise Business Model at Risk?

Over the course of the last year, we have kept you abreast of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case law and Department of Labor (DOL) interpretive/enforcement guidance, how these agencies are changing their view of the responsibility of parent corporations for the employment relationship between employees of temporary agencies and franchises, and how these changes have the potential to drastically alter the benefits and risks of utilizing these relationships.

In what could become one of the most enlightening applications yet of this emerging shift, an NLRB hearing before an administrative law judge began last week in involving allegations by workers that McDonald's is responsible as a joint employer for the alleged labor law violations of its franchisees. The franchisors are alleged to have threatened, disciplined, or fired franchise employees who participated in widely-publicized campaigns for collective bargaining and a $15 minimum wage. More ›

Supreme Court: Ordinary Contract Principles do not Allow Inference of Vesting Rights Absent Clear and Express Language

In 2000, M&G Polymers purchased the Point Pleasant Polyester Plant in Apple Grove, WV. At that time, M&G entered into a collective-bargaining agreement and a related Pension, Insurance, and Service Award Agreement (P & I Agreement) with the union. The P & I Agreement provided for medical coverage with a full employer contribution to be provided for the duration of the agreement, subject to future negotiations. When those agreements expired, M&G announced that it would require retirees to contribute to the cost of their health care benefits. Several retirees sued M&G in federal district court, alleging that the P & I Agreement created a vested right to a lifetime contribution of free healthcare benefits. More ›

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