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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NLRB Overrules Specialty Healthcare and Eliminates Overwhelming Community of Interest Standard

By Mitzi Wyrick

In PCC Structurals, Inc., 365 NLRB No. 160, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) clarified the correct standard for determining whether a proposed bargaining unit constitutes an appropriate unit for bargaining when the employer contends that the smallest appropriate unit must include additional employees.  The NLRB overruled Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB No. 934 (2011) (Specialty Healthcare) and reinstated the traditional community-of-interest standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit in union representation cases.

Under Specialty Healthcare, if a union petitioned for an election among a particular group of employees, those employees shared a community of interest among themselves and the employer took the position that the smallest appropriate unit had to include employees excluded from the proposed unit, the NLRB would not Continue reading


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NLRB Reverts to Prior Standard for Implementing Unilateral Changes

By Mitzi Wyrick

In Raytheon Network Centric Systems, 365 NLRB No. 161, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued a ruling affecting bargaining obligations that are required before implementing a unilateral “change” in employment matters. Until 2016, when the NLRB decided E.I. du Pont de Nemours, 364 NLRB No. 113, the NLRB had found that an employer was not obligated to bargain before making unilateral changes when it followed a well-established past practice.

In the 2016 DuPont decision, the NLRB held that even if an employer acted consistently with past practice, if a collective bargaining agreement  (“CBA”) had expired and was no longer in effect, bargaining would always be required.  Specifically, the NLRB had required the employer to Continue reading


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Emanuel Fills Last NLRB Seat

By Edwin S. Hopson

On September 26, 2017, William J. Emanuel, a Republican,  was sworn in as a Member of the National Labor Relations Board.  Emanuel’s term will end August 27, 2021. The Senate had confirmed his nomination by a vote of 49-47 after Democrats filibustered his appointment.

Prior to his appointment, Emanuel was a shareholder with Littler Mendelson, P.C., a law firm representing management in labor and employment matters.  He had also practiced labor law with several other firms.

With this new Member, the NLRB is once again at full strength – three Republicans and two Democrats.


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Supreme Court Considers Validity of Employment Contracts Prohibiting Class or Collective Action

By Douglas L. McSwain

On October 2, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States heard three combined cases raising an important legal question that likely will affect innumerable employment contracts used in this country.  The Court heard Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, Ernst & Young, LLP v. Morris and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Murphy Oil (USA).  The Court’s ruling in these three cases will determine the validity of arbitration clauses that waive or prohibit the employee from pursuing collective, class or joint actions in court or in arbitration proceedings.

The lower courts have differed on this question, and the oral argument before the Supreme Court indicates the Justices are likely to split in what could turn out to be a closely decided ruling, perhaps with a thin majority of Justices (i.e., potentially a 5-4 decision).  No one knows for sure how the case will be finally decided by the Supreme Court, and predictions about how the Justices will rule, at this juncture, are premature at best.  The questioning that occurred during oral argument seems to suggest Continue reading


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Senate Confirms Republican Member to NLRB

By Edwin S. Hopson

On August 2, 2017, just prior to the August recess, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Marvin Kaplan by a vote of 50 to 48 to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board.  The Senate, however, did not vote on a second Trump nominee to the Board, William Emanuel.  The vote on the second nominee is expected in September.  With Kaplan’s confirmation, the five member Board now consists of two Republicans, two Democrats and one vacancy.  Thus, it is unlikely that there will be any more ground-breaking new precedent in favor of unions for some time to come.  It has been nine years since the Republicans had a majority of Board Members.

The term of the Democrat General Counsel to the Board expires in early November of this year.  He will be replaced by a Republican yet to be named.


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Trump’s Recent NLRB Picks (if Confirmed) Projected to Overturn Controversial Obama-Era Rulings

By Sharon L. Gold

On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, President Trump picked William Emanuel, 75, to fill one of the two vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board.  The NLRB is currently controlled by Democrats, with a 2-1 majority.  When there are no vacancies, the Board is filled with three members from the President’s party and two from the opposing party.

Emanuel was an employment lawyer at an employer-friendly law firm in Los Angeles.  He has represented trade groups and employers before the NLRB for many years.

Trump has also nominated Republican Marvin Kaplan for Continue reading