Photo of James A. Holt

Employers in all industries should take notice that efforts to unionize appear to be spiking in 2024.  Indeed, data made available by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) shows that, in just the first few months of the current fiscal year, the number of union representation cases, or so-call “R-cases,” filed with the NLRB is on a meteoric rise – indicating that recent trends with respect to union organization efforts may be amplifying.

This was predicted in our prior article about the NLRB’s decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, which established a new framework for the union representation process. Under Cemex, when a union requests recognition based on a majority support of the employees to be in the bargaining unit, an employer must either: (1) recognize and bargain with the union; or (2) promptly file a RM petition to challenge the union’s claim of majority support by seeking an election, pursuant to Section 9(c)(1)(B) of the NLRA, unless the union has already filed a petition for a representation election pursuant to Section 9(c)(1)(A) of the Act. The time for the employer to act is limited, as it is generally held that the employer has only 14 days after the demand for recognition in which to file an RM petition.Continue Reading Employers take notice: Union representation petitions are spiking in 2024

In an exceptional development that could dramatically change collegiate sports in the United States, the Regional Director for Region 1 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recognized the fifteen players of the Dartmouth College men’s varsity basketball team as employees with a right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), in a decision issued on February 5, 2024. As a result, the players are eligible to vote on whether they want to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, Local 560 for collective bargaining purposes. If a majority of the voting players vote in favor of the union, they will create the first-ever union of NCAA athletes.

The Dartmouth College decision signifies a shift by the NLRB. In 2015, the NLRB declined to exercise jurisdiction over a similar bid to unionize by Northwestern’s football team, thereby declining that opportunity to recognize student athletes as employees at that time. The opportunity was seized in the Dartmouth College decision, however, as the Regional Director distinguished the Northwestern decision – perhaps most notably, based on the fact that Dartmouth College competed in the Ivy League Conference, exclusively with other private schools that were subject to the NLRB’s jurisdiction, where Northwestern competed in the Big Ten Conference, in which every other school in the conference was a state-run institution that was not subject to the NLRB’s jurisdiction.Continue Reading NLRB’s recognition of Dartmouth College men’s basketball team as employees could change collegiate sports forever

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued a decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC announcing a new framework for determining when employers are required to bargain with unions without a representation election. In the decision, the NLRB overruled the long-standing standard in Linden Lumber because, in the Cemex majority’s view, it was inadequate to

On February 21, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board issued a landmark decision in McLaren Macomb that has the potential to seismically change how employers approach and manage employee separations that include severance packages. In response to this landmark decision and the impact it will have on many employers, Reed Smith’s Labor & Employment team

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board signaled two additional areas in which it intends to pursue its labor-favorable agenda over the remainder of the 2022 year and beyond.

First, on October 31, 2022, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memorandum stating her intention to zealously enforce the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) with respect to what she has called “intrusive or abusive electronic monitoring and automated management practices.”

Second, on November 3, 2022, the Board issued a proposal to roll back 2020 amendments to its election regulations with respect to so-called blocking charges.

Technology-based monitoring and surveillance

In her October 31 memorandum, the General Counsel expressed concern that “close, constant, surveillance and management through electronic means” constitutes a threat to “employees’ ability to exercise their rights” under the Act.  The General Counsel specifically stated that electronic surveillance and automated systems can limit or prevent employees from engaging in protected activity, including conversations about the terms and conditions of their employment or of unionization.  She also claimed that employer-issued devices or required applications on employees’ personal devices may extend surveillance to nonworking areas, including to rest areas within an employer’s facilities and non-work areas outside of the workplace.  This, the General Counsel speculated, “may prevent employees from exercising their Section 7 rights” from engaging in concerted activity anywhere and may lead to retaliation and discrimination on the basis of protected activity.  The memorandum goes on to provide a two-pronged approach towards dealing with these perceived threats to employees’ rights.Continue Reading NLRB aiming to take pro-labor action in the areas of technology-based monitoring and surveillance and blocking charges

Employers routinely strive to find innovative ways to recruit, retain, and manage top talent. Proponents of artificial intelligence (AI) advocate that it can be a powerful tool for such purposes given that AI can be used to collect and analyze massive amounts of candidate and employee data in many different ways and in a fraction of the time needed by human analysts. By way of example, AI may be used in the hiring process to analyze qualifications or mine data from resumes and other submissions by candidates. It also may be used to assess an individual’s perceived fitness for a particular job, including their personality, aptitude, cognitive skills, or other perceived qualities, based on their performance during screening tests, video interviews, or other virtual interactions. AI also may be used to monitor and analyze employees’ working patterns or productivity based on measurable output, including even the most fundamental of activities such as keystrokes. Employers might presume that, because this is data-driven, there is no risk of unlawful discrimination or bias.Continue Reading EEOC issues guidance on employer use of AI under the ADA

OSHA issued its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in early November. A series of challenges quickly ensued, resulting in a stay of the ETS and a consolidation of the cases before the Sixth Circuit. On December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit lifted the stay. OSHA has indicated that it will delay enforcement of the ETS deadlines

On December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the stay previously placed on OSHA’s so-called “vaccinate or test” Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Consequently, covered employers with 100 or more employees will now be required to comply with the ETS under the newly announced deadlines of January 10, 2022 for all non-testing requirements

Since its publication on November 5, 2021, employers have been reviewing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) 490-page Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and taking steps to create and update their employment policies to comply with it.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) has added another item to the to-do lists of those employers covered by the ETS with unionized workforces. On November 10, 2021, NLRB’s operations management division issued a memo reminding unionized employers of their bargaining obligations under the National Labor Relations Act in connection with policy changes being contemplated in light of the ETS.Continue Reading Complying with OSHA’s ETS? Don’t forget about your duty to bargain, says NLRB

Update – On November 6, 2021 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay of the ETS.

On November 4, 2021, OSHA issued an unpublished version of its long-awaited Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) as to COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirements covering most private employers with 100 or more employees. The ETS is scheduled to be published and take effect on November 5, 2021. As summarized below, the ETS requires covered employers to establish either (1) a mandatory vaccination policy requiring that all covered employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or (2) a vaccination policy that requires that employees choose between being fully vaccinated or submitting to regular and recurring COVID-19 testing. It should be noted that these are “minimum” requirements, such that employers are not prohibited from establishing more stringent policies, and do not supplant the requirements of a collective bargaining agreement.

Effective date

Employers will have 30 days, or until December 5, 2021, to comply with all non-testing requirements of the ETS, and 60 days, or until January 4, 2022, to comply with testing requirements for employees who have not received all doses required for primary vaccination. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), an ETS serves as a proposal for a permanent standard, and the OSH Act calls for the permanent standard to be finalized within six months after publication of the ETS (29 U.S.C. 655(c)(3)).

Covered employers

For purposes of the ETS, a covered employer is one with 100 or more employees “at any time” during the effective period of the ETS. This means that employers who meet this minimum threshold as of the effective date of the ETS are covered throughout the effective time of the ETS, even if the employer later falls under the minimum employee threshold. For any employer that falls short of 100 employees as of the effective date but reaches the threshold at any point that the ETS is in effect, the employer will become subject to the ETS requirements as of the date they meet the threshold and remain covered for the remaining duration of the ETS, even if the employer later reduces staff such that it falls under the threshold. To calculate the number of employees, all part-time and full-time employees must be accounted for, regardless of where they work (including those that work at home). However, independent contractors are not included in the calculation. Also, employees supplied to a customer site by staffing companies only count toward the staffing company’s employee total; they do not count toward the customer company’s total. Similarly, as to franchisee-franchisor relationships, their respective employees count only toward their own calculation, not the other party’s employee count (i.e., a franchisee’s employees count only toward the franchisee’s calculation, and not the franchisor’s count). The ETS excludes: (1) Employers that are covered under the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors; and (2) certain settings where any employee provides healthcare services or healthcare support services.

Excluded employees

The ETS specifies that the requirements apply only to employees who visit an employer’s indoor locations where other people are present. Employees who work exclusively at home, outdoors, or at a site where the employee is the only person present are not required to comply with the employer’s requirements. However, should such an employee later be required to, or seek to, visit one of the employer’s indoor facilities, the employee must satisfy the vaccination or testing requirements.

Reasonable accommodations/Exceptions to policy

The ETS requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations and exceptions for employees (i) for whom the vaccine is medically contraindicated; (ii) for whom medical necessity requires a delay in vaccination; or (iii) who are entitled to a reasonable accommodation due to a disability or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances that conflict with the vaccination requirement.

As to the vaccination requirements, the employer is required to provide an employee with time to obtain and recover from a vaccination. Specifically, the employer must provide up to four hours of paid time, inclusive of travel time, at the employee’s regular pay rate, to obtain a vaccine. The employer must also provide reasonable paid time off to recover from any side effects of each dose of a vaccine.
Continue Reading OSHA issues COVID-19 ETS for large private employers