Wyatt Employment Law Report


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NLRB establishes new policy governing employee handbooks and workplace policies

By Mitzi Wyrick

In Boeing Co., 365 NLRB No. 154, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) overturned the standard established in Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia, 343 NLRB No. 646 (2004) for weighing the legality of employee handbook rules and workplace policies.  In Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia, the NLRB created confusion for employers when it ruled that employers violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by maintaining workplace rules that did not explicitly prohibit protected activities, were not adopted in response to such activities and were not applied to restrict such activities, if the rules would be “reasonably construed” by an employee to prohibit the exercise of Section 7 rights under the NLRA.

Under Lutheran Heritage, employers were found to have violated the NLRA for having seemingly innocuous policies prohibiting “loud, abusive or foul language,” rules subjecting employees to discipline for an “inability or unwillingness to work harmoniously with other employees,” and rules prohibiting “negative energy or attitudes.”  Confusingly, under Lutheran Heritage, some rules Continue reading


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Persuader Rule Update

By George J. Miller

Judges HammerBy now, I assume most employers and others who keep up with developments in labor and employment law are familiar with the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) controversial “persuader rule” that was set to take effect on July 1 of this year.  For those who are not familiar with it, here is a summary of what all the fuss is about, followed by some recent court developments.

In 1959, Congress amended the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by passing the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).  The main purpose of the LMRDA was to rid organized labor of corruption and also make it more democratic.  However, the LMRDA also requires labor consultants (including lawyers) to file reports with the DOL identifying their employer clients and the details of the terms of their engagement, including fees paid for their services, if an object of the engagement, either directly or indirectly, is to persuade employees whether or how to exercise or not to exercise their rights to organize or bargain collectively under the NLRA.  The law also requires employers who engage consultants for such purposes to file a similar report.  These filings are a public record.  Willful violations of the LMRDA’s reporting requirements are criminal and are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or a year in jail, or both.

However, the LMRDA contains an exception from the reporting requirement for consultants’ “advice” to employers in such matters.  Shortly after the LMRDA was enacted, the DOL issued guidance stating that if a labor consultant (including an attorney) did not communicate directly with employees regarding their Continue reading


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Eleventh Circuit Reverses NLRB & Finds Stagehands Are Independent Contractors

By Michael D. Hornback

Like me, I am sure some of you have attended an over-the-top concert and thought “Who puts up these stages and all of these lights?”  More importantly, who are the poor souls that are relegated to taking all of this stuff down after the concert is over (which must feel like that never ending drive back to reality after a vacation at the beach)?  Have you ever been to a concert and thought, “Hey, are these stagehands employees or independent contractors?”  Yeah, me neither.  However, that was the precise question before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Crew One Productions, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, Case No. 15-10429.  I’ll save you the suspense, Continue reading


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National Labor Relations Board Dismisses Northwestern University Football Players’ Petition to be Classified as Employees and Unionize

By R. Joseph Stennis, Jr.

On August 17, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) unanimously dismissed a petition by Northwestern University’s football team players to be categorized as “employee(s)” as that term is defined under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction over the matter and instead dismissed the representation petition that was successfully filed by the College Athletes Players Association (“CAPA”) last year in which Peter Sung Ohr, NLRB Regional Director of its Chicago Office, ruled that Northwestern football players are employees under the NLRA.

football picIn its decision, the NLRB concluded, among other things, that to assert jurisdiction in this matter would not “effectuate the policies of the Act.” Additionally, due to the structure of the NCAA Division I Football Subdivision (“FBS”) of being primarily comprised of public colleges and universities, the Board ruled jurisdiction “would not promote stability in labor relations…in this case.” By statute, the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over state-run colleges and/or universities, which constitutes 108 of the 125 FBS teams. Northwestern University is the only private school that is a member of the Big Ten Conference, limiting the NLRB’s ability to exercise jurisdiction over its competitors within the conference. The Board recognized that such a scenario was without precedent because Continue reading


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NLRB Rules That Filing a Class or Collective Action Is Protected, Concerted Activity

By Michelle D. Wyrick

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decided in 200 East 81st Restaurant Corp. d/b/a Beyoglu that “the filing of an employment-related class or collective action by an individual employee is an attempt to initiate, to induce, or to prepare for group action and is therefore conduct protected by Section 7” of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The employee in the case, a waiter, testified that he mentioned filing a lawsuit against his employer to one co-worker, who declined to participate in the proposed lawsuit. When the waiter filed the lawsuit, he did not obtain prior authorization from any other employee. On the day the complaint was served on the employer, the employer removed the waiter’s name from the work schedule and asked him if he expected to work while he was filing a lawsuit. The waiter left the workplace and was never told he could return to work. The Administrative Law Judge found that the employer terminated the waiter’s employment in retaliation for filing the lawsuit, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated employees, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

The dissent disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that an employee’s filing of a class or collective action automatically equates to protected, concerted activity. The dissent noted that not every non-NLRA class or collective claim “triggers an automatic overlay of NLRA rights and restrictions.” In the dissent’s view, the simple act of filing a class or collective action “does not instantly convert the Continue reading


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NLRB Increases Scrutiny of Non-Union Employer Policies

By George J. Miller

In recent years, perhaps due to the steep decline in union organizing activity that traditionally created much of the work at the National Labor Relations Board, the Board, or more precisely the General Counsel of the Board, has been focusing attention on non-union employers’ policies that could violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  An example that has garnered a lot of attention is company social media policies. 

Recently, the current General Counsel of the NLRB put out a 30-page memo discussing the application of the NLRA to the following kinds of employee handbook policies:

  • Confidentiality
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Speech and other conduct regarding the company and company supervisors
  • Speech and other conduct regarding fellow employees
  • Communications about the employer with third parties outside the company
  • Restrictions on the use of company logos, copyrights and trademarks
  • Restrictions on the use of cameras and recording devices at work
  • Restrictions on leaving work during the workday 

The memo discusses actual cases in which the General Counsel’s office reviewed these policies and found them either lawful or unlawful under the NLRA.  Examples of both lawful and unlawful policies are given.  This is very useful for employers, attorneys and consultants in drafting policies that will pass muster at the NLRB.  The memo also discusses the settlement of a case involving Wendy’s International’s employee handbook.  It discusses various Wendy’s policies that were allegedly unlawful and how they were modified by Wendy’s and approved by the General Counsel’s office in the settlement.  Click here to access the page on the NLRB website where the memo can be found.


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Northwestern Football Players Cast Votes On Union

By R. Joseph Stennis

helmutThis morning at Northwestern University’s campus located in Evanston, Illinois, players from the school’s football team cast secret ballots to determine whether to form the nation’s first union for college athletes.  A total of seventy six football players were eligible to vote, but none were required to do so.  It is uncertain at this juncture how many of the seventy six eligible players actually voted.   For those players who did,  a majority of them must have voted in favor of unionizing and allowing the College Athletes Players Association (“CAPA”) to represent them for collective bargaining purposes.  The election stems from a ruling made by the NLRB’s regional director in its Chicago Office, Peter Sung Ohr, last month.   In his ruling, Mr. Ohr concluded that Northwestern University football players  presently on scholarship at the school are “employees” as that term is defined under the National Labor Relations Act and federal common law, and could therefore conduct elections to determine whether or not they want to be represented by CAPA.

Earlier this month, Northwestern appealed Mr. Ohr’s decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.  Yesterday, the Board granted Northwestern’s request for review and has ordereed that the ballots from today’s vote be impounded until it reaches a decision.  In its request, Northwestern is seeking a reversal of Mr. Ohr’s decision.  We will not know whether the players voted to unionize or not until and if the Board issues a decision approving the Regional Directors’ ruling that allowed the election to take place.  So, although today’s vote by Northwestern’s players was a historic moment for private college student-athletes, whether they ultimately will—or have the ability to— unionize is still very much uncertain.