Labor Board Proceedings and Practice

Readers of our series of posts on D.R. Horton will recall our prediction that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) would continue its attacks on certain arbitration agreements.  As predicted, the NLRB’s administrative law judges (ALJ) continue to strike down any arbitration agreements that waive class or collective action claims and allow arbitration of only individual claims.  The ALJs consistently find that such agreements violate employees’ Section 7 rights to engage in protected concerted activity.
Continue Reading Delay in Supreme Court Review of D.R. Horton Continues to Cost Employers Enforcing Arbitration Agreements

Much speculation abounds regarding why workers at the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga rejected the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) in a recent vote.  Factors appeared to be aligning in favor of the UAW, such as

  • Statements of support for the union from VW representatives in Germany.
  • Access to the plant for union organizers.
  • Promise of a “works council” type approach to unionization.

Continue Reading VW Aftermath – Factors Still Favor Non-Union South

Readers of a previous post will recall that in December 2013, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the view of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) in the significant D.R. Horton ruling.  There, the Fifth Circuit held that an arbitration agreement that requires employees to arbitrate all employment disputes but restricts the arbitration proceedings to individual arbitrations only (i.e., not allowing class or collective arbitrations) does not violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Continue Reading NLRB Continues to Strike Down Arbitration Agreements

In a split decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the view of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board). According to the Court’s majority opinion, an arbitration agreement that requires employees to arbitrate all employment disputes but restricts the arbitration proceedings to individual arbitrations only (i.e., not allowing class or collective arbitrations) does not violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. D. R. Horton v. National Labor Relations Board (December 3, 2013). The Board is considering an appeal.

Why is this important?
Continue Reading NLRB Loses Appeal in D.R. Horton: Arbitration Agreements Can Require Only Individual Arbitration, But …

The National Labor Relations Board’s recent attempt to change its union election rules has been halted by a federal district court in Washington, D.C. The Court ruled that the attempted changes were not valid because the vote to approve the rules occurred when the Board did not have a quorum (Chamber of Commerce v. NLRB, D.D.C., No. 11-cv-2262, 5/14/12).

Interestingly, the decision hinged on what is sufficient “participation” in an electronic vote to satisfy quorum requirements. Board member Brian E. Hayes did not vote or take any action in the December 16, 2011 electronic vote. Is that like being present but abstaining, and thus counting toward a quorum? No, said the Court. Hayes was only sent the notification calling for a vote; he did not vote or even abstain. His silence was as if he was not in attendance at an in-person meeting, and thus, no quorum was present for the election rules to have been properly adopted.Continue Reading Federal Court Halts Board’s Changes in Election Rules

Social media continues to gain attention in the employment law field.  From recent NLRB advice memoranda to Congress considering new legislation, to every employer now being advised to at least have a “policy” on social media, the news keeps pouring in. (Read this article by Eric Yaverbaum on The Washington Post blog, or this one on Mashable, or the many other articles online.)

Now, Maryland has become the first state to ban employers from asking for the social media site passwords of employees and applicants.  Relying on privacy concerns, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring usernames or passwords to personal online social media sites.  The legislation also bans an employer from taking disciplinary action, or threatening such action, if an employee or applicant refuses to disclose such information.
Continue Reading Demanding Social Media Site Passwords Now Illegal in Maryland

As a matter of federal law, employers can require employees to agree to arbitrate any employment dispute.  But, can that arbitration agreement force an employee to arbitrate only individual claims, not class (or collective) claims?  Recently, the National Labor Relations Board said NOClick here for the Board’s ruling.

This ruling appears at odds with a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Conception.  There, the Supreme Court considered a California state law that invalidated any arbitration agreement that included a mandatory waiver of class claims.  The Supreme Court noted that the right to pursue class claims is a procedural right, not statutory, and overturned the California law.  Some employers then adopted arbitration agreements that included waivers of an employee’s ability to pursue class or collective actions. 
Continue Reading Labor Board Rules that Arbitration Agreements Forbidding Class Arbitration is Unlawful

Social media sitesThe NLRB’s Division of Advice recently issued memoranda in several different cases, showing that not all activity by employees on social media sites constitute protected activity.  These reports show that the Labor Board, like many employers, struggle with what is “protected concerted activity” – and thus protected from any employer discipline – and what are mere individual gripes – and most likely not protected.

The NLRB’s attempt to provide guidance in these memoranda does show the Labor Board’s adoption of a more realistic view of what is protected activity on social media than some had feared (and more realistic than some critics had charged).  In short, “protected concerted activity” even on social media must show more than an individual employee’s private complaint or gripe about her/his employer. The employee must be expressing group complaints (acting “with or on the authority of” other employees) and generally must be interacting with employees in such expression. posted a good article illustrating the differences. In one instance, the NLRB even examined whether a particular employee’s Facebook wall included ‘friends’ who were co-workers.
Continue Reading Labor Board Report Shows Its Struggles with the Realities of Social Media