Despite increasing rejection of the NLRB’s controversial D.R. Horton decision by almost all federal courts which have considered it, an NLRB administrative law judge recently felt there was no choice but to follow Board precedent and so applied and affirmed its holding. These cases illustrate the growing divide between the NLRB and courts over the D.R. Horton decision and the growing trend of federal courts refusing to uphold its enforcement. READ MORE
Providing yet another example of how online social networking can amount to protected conduct under the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB ruled earlier this month in New York Party Shuttle, LLC and Fred Pflantzer, CN: 02-CA-073340 that a New York City tour guide’s Facebook postings constituted protected union organizing activities. The board held that New York Party Shuttle LLC unlawfully discharged Fred Pflantzer when it refused to give him new assignments after he posted Facebook messages criticizing the company’s employment practices. READ MORE
A recent D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down several recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board has cast doubt over one of the NLRB’s most controversial decisions from 2012.
In Noel Canning v. NLRB, F. 3d (D.C. Cir. Jan. 25, 2013), the D.C. Circuit held that President Obama lacked constitutional authority to use recess appointments to name three new members to the NLRB because the vacancies did not arise, and the appointments were not made, during a “Recess of the Senate,” which is defined as “the period between sessions that would end with the ensuing session of the Senate.” Slip op. at 18; 39-40. As a result, the court held that the NLRB lacked a quorum when it decided the underlying case, rendering its decision void ab initio.
The holding in Noel Canning raises questions about the viability of In re D.R. Horton, Inc., 357 NLRB 184 – 2012, one of the most widely discussed NLRB decisions of 2012. In D.R. Horton, the Board held that arbitration clauses that prohibit employees from pursuing class or collective actions violate employee rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) to engage in protected concerted activity. D.R. Horton’s appeal will be heard by the Fifth Circuit on February 4.
D.R. Horton was decided the day before President Obama made the recess appointments at issue in Noel Canning. However, Craig Becker, one of the three NLRB members who decided D.R. Horton, was the subject of an earlier recess appointment in 2010. D.R. Horton filed a letter with the Fifth Circuit on January 29, 2013, arguing that the holding in Noel Canning should be applied to Becker’s appointment and render the decision void. The Fifth Circuit is expected to address this issue together with D.R. Horton’s existing arguments during oral argument on February 4.
Employers in California have been watching closely to see how courts will apply the United States Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), which held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted state law concerning the enforceability of class action waiver provisions, in which a party waives his or her right to arbitrate claims on a class basis. READ MORE
In its first ruling on an employer’s social media policy, the National Labor Relations Board found that Costco Wholesale Corporation’s social media policy in its employee handbook violated the National Labor Relations Act. Among the policy provisions reviewed, the Board analyzed Costco’s policy prohibiting employees from posting electronically statements that damage the company or any person’s reputation.
In its September 7, 2012 opinion, the Board stated that the “appropriate inquiry” is whether the policy would “reasonably tend to chill employees in their exercise of their Section 7 rights[,]” which provides employees with the right to engage in concerted activity. While the Board acknowledged that Costco’s policy did not explicitly reference Section 7 activity, the Board did find that the policy’s broad prohibition on statements “clearly encompasses concerted communications protesting [Costco’s] treatment of its employees.” The Board specifically noted that there was nothing in Costco’s policy that even suggested the exclusion of protected communications. Accordingly, the Board concluded that Costco’s policy had a reasonable tendency to inhibit employees’ protected activity and thus violated the National Labor Relations Act.
Earlier this year, in D.R. Horton, Inc., 357 NLRB No. 184 (Jan. 6, 2012), the National Labor Relations Board (“Board” or “NLRB”) held that mandatory arbitration agreements requiring all employment disputes to be resolved through individual, bilateral arbitration violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) because such agreements impermissibly restrict employees’ rights under Section 7 to engage in “concerted action for mutual aid or protection.” Although some courts have already rejected D.R. Horton (see e.g., opinion from S.D.N.Y., opinion from M.D. Fla. and opinion from California State Court) two recent pronouncements call into question additional, commonly used and accepted employment practices after finding they also had a “chilling effect” on employees’ right to engage in protected, concerted activity. Even though it remains to be seen whether these decisions will survive full Board and/or appellate court review, their rationale applies to union and non-union workplaces, and both decisions are worth reviewing now for the impact they may have on employer practices in these and other areas. READ MORE
A California Court of Appeal recently required a plaintiff to forego class and representative action claims in Nelsen v. Legacy Partners Residential, Inc., No. A132927 (Cal. App. July 18, 2012) finding that she failed to show the employer’s arbitration agreement was unconscionable or that compelling individual arbitration would violate state or federal law or public policy. Knocking down the attempt to keep class and representative claims alive in either a judicial or arbitration proceeding, the First Appellate District held that all of the plaintiff’s California Labor Code claims, as well her claim for injunctive relief, had to be arbitrated on an individual basis. READ MORE
In Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, (Cal. Ct. App. June 4, 2012), the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District affirmed a decision to compel individual arbitration of wage-and-hour claims pursuant to an employment agreement that contained class and representative action waivers, holding that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion was controlling. READ MORE
A new ruling from the Northern District of California, Morvant v. P.F. Chang’s Bistro, Inc. (May 7, 2012), confirms the enforceability of class action waivers despite contrary California law and the National Labor Relations Board’s opinion in D.R. Horton. READ MORE
In a key update regarding an issue that will affect all employers, on April 17, 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an injunction requiring the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) to preserve the “status quo” in its ongoing push to require employers to post its controversial “Employee Rights Notice” informing employees of their rights to organize unions. As a result of this order, the NLRB is prohibited from enforcing its new requirement that employers post the notice by April 30, 2012. The NLRB has appropriately acknowledged the Court’s injunction, stating on its website that “The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily enjoined the NLRB’s rule requiring the posting of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act” and that “[t]he rule, which had been scheduled to take effect on April 30, 2012, will not take effect until the legal issues are resolved. There is no new deadline for the posting requirement at this time.”
The D.C. Circuit’s order is an important and welcome “time out” given the uncertainty of the “legal issues” surrounding the NLRB’s posting requirement. Just last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina granted summary judgment to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its bid to invalidate the posting requirement, holding that the posting requirement was in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act and that the NLRB’s role is to be “reactive” rather than “proactive.” But earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the NLRB posting requirement against a challenge by the National Association of Manufacturers. That case is presently on appeal, the outcome of which will determine the next development in this saga.
For now, at least, employers should breathe a sigh of relief and know that they do not need to post the NLRB’s “Employee Rights Notice” until its legality is determined by the courts.
Stay tuned for further developments.