Wyatt Employment Law Report


The Supreme Court of Kentucky Upholds Employees’ Right-to-Work

By Marianna Michael

The Supreme Court of Kentucky has rejected a challenge to Kentucky’s right-to-work law, which prohibits companies from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition for holding a job.

The relevant provision, codified in KRS 336.130, states:

Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section or any provision of the Kentucky Revised Statutes to the contrary, no employee shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to:

2. Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization.

Kentucky’s AFL-CIO and Teamsters 84 challenged the law. They argued that, pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, the law amounted to an unconstitutional taking from labor organizations that had previously required every worker in a union shop to pay dues, regardless of whether they joined the union. Additionally, they argued that the law was unconstitutional because the Kentucky Constitution prevents lawmakers from passing “special legislation” or laws targeting a specific group or class.

However, both the lower court and the Supreme Court of Kentucky disagreed. The lower court dismissed the case, reasoning that there would be no constitutional taking, since the law was not retroactive and contracts that are currently in existence will remain effective until the contracts expire. Additionally, the court’s opinion distinguished the legislature’s right to create laws and the court’s role in protecting the General Assembly’s ability to legislate. The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the lower court’s ruling.


With New NLRB Proposed Rule, Browning-Ferris’s Days May Be Numbered

By Thomas E. Travis

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently proposed a new rule to scale back a controversial Board decision from 2015 regarding the appropriate test for whether a franchisor and franchisees are “joint employers” under the National Labor Relations Act. This would directly roll back the NLRB decision in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, where the Board extended joint employment to circumstances where a company has only “indirect” control over another company’s workers, overturning a prior ruling that required “direct and immediate control.”

The new proposed rule would establish that two entities become joint employers “only if the two employers share or codetermine the employee’s essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction.” This is, of course, much closer to the original “direct and immediate control” standard, with even more ascertainable guidelines to assist the Board in reaching its determination. And contra Browning-Ferris, this standard is much more difficult for challengers to meet in making claims for joint employment.

Should the proposed rule take effect, commenters are somewhat divided over the impact of Browning-Ferris on litigation. Some observers note that the standard was infrequently invoked and seemed to not impact labor litigation nearly as much as its detractors contend. On the other hand, some critics rebut that the impact is felt not just in litigation, but in business planning and economic development: the broad standard invoked in Browning-Ferris required entities to closely evaluate every workplace scenario in attempt to avoid the vague strictures of the NLRB’s decision, and the prior rule seems to disincentivize franchising and other cost-saving business relationships.

Employers will most likely welcome the proposed change. If anything, the proposed change removes the latent ambiguities from Browning-Ferris, and replaces it with a clear standard to ease future business planning going forward.


Kentucky Supreme Court Limits Employers’ Ability to Enter Arbitration Agreements with Employees

By Marianna Michael

agreement-coffee-content-1076815Within the first week of October, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued its opinion in Northern Kentucky Area Development District v. Snyder NO. 2015-CA-001167 (Ky. Aug. 27, 2018). The court faced the decision of whether the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) preempted KRS 336.700. Ultimately, the court held that: (1) employers may not condition employment on entering into arbitration agreements and (2) the FAA does not preempt KRS 366.700(2).

In this case, Danielle Snyder brought suit against her former employer, the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (“NKADD”). NKADD is a public agency that provides social programs to eight Kentucky counties. It hired Snyder on the condition that she enter into an arbitration agreement. The agreement required Snyder to resolve all disputes with NKADD through arbitration and not through the courts. Snyder was given the option to reject the agreement within five days of accepting it, but the rejection would end her employment with the company. She accepted the condition and worked for NKADD until Continue reading


Employers Have Opportunity to Comment on NLRB’s Proposed Joint Employer Rule

By Sharon Gold

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently proposed a rule establishing the standard for determining joint employer status under the National Labor Relations Act.  Employers have until November 13, 2018 to comment about the proposed rule.  The proposed rule, commentary and instructions on commenting are available here.

There have been several changes to the definition over the past few years, which has caused uncertainty for employers.  The proposed rule states that employers are joint employers “only if the two employers share or codetermine the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction.”  Proposed Rule Part 103.40.  “A putative joint employer must possess and Continue reading


Stay Cool: Preventing Heat Illness in the Workplace

By Julie Laemmle

breathing-apparatus-dangerous-emergency-36031Heat-related hazards can affect a variety of workers and workplaces.  Without proper employer and employee precautions, exposure to heat can lead to worker injuries, diseases and fatalities; reduced productivity; and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) citations and penalties.  To minimize any health or business risks, employers should be properly educated on the dangers of occupational heat exposure, understand their responsibilities and take appropriate steps to protect workers.

Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash, heat fatigue and fainting.  Further, all of these illnesses can progress to much more serious conditions and could even lead to death.  Other heat-related risks Continue reading


Sixth Circuit Issues Ruling Regarding Modified Work Schedules

By Amanda Warford Edge

adult-africa-african-1089550 (1)Last week, the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion in Hostettler v. College of Wooster, — F.3d — (6th Cir. July 17, 2018), reminding employers that determining the essential functions of a position is a highly fact-specific endeavor.  In that case, the College of Wooster had hired Heidi Hostettler in 2013 when she was four months pregnant.  She worked as a full-time HR Generalist.  After giving birth to her child, Hostettler experienced severe postpartum depression and separation anxiety.  As a result, her doctor determined it was medically necessary that Hostettler work a reduced schedule, working on a part-time basis for the “foreseeable future.”  After two months of working a reduced schedule, Hostettler was fired for being “unable to return to [her] assigned position of HR Generalist in a full time capacity.”

Hostettler brought suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)¹,  Continue reading


President Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court: What Does This Mean for Employment Law?

By Thomas E. Travis

On July 9, 2018, President Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to the Supreme Court.  If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh will fill the seat recently vacated on July 31 by retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Here’s what we know about Kavanaugh and how his appointment to the Court will impact emerging issues in labor and employment law.

Judge Kavanaugh has been a member of the D.C. Circuit for the past twelve years and has an extensive paper trail, especially with respect to reviewing administrative agency determinations.  He is generally perceived as contemplative and precise, with a reputation as a textualist and originalist jurist, meaning that he attempts to interpret legal texts as written and according to their original understandings at the time they were enacted.  The resulting consequence often finds Judge Kavanaugh skeptical of Continue reading