NLRB Delivers A “Holiday Gift” To Employers: New Union Election Timelines

On December 13, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a final rule revising the Obama-era union election procedures (known as “R-Case” rules). The revision to the procedures will become effective 120 days from its publication in the Federal Register next week.


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Ah, the perils of “reply all.” We’ve all been there – but did you know that doing so can implicate the National Labor Relations Act? This was the case in Mexican Radio Corp. v. NLRB. In August 2015, a restaurant hired a new general manager. Soon after this hire, employees lodged numerous complaints with the restaurant’s director of operations about the general manager’s alleged demeaning treatment of employees, as well as the restaurant’s unsanitary conditions.
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The story in Collins v. Koch Foods, Inc. begins with an office romance. A female HR manager began privately dating the plant manager in 2014. Because neither was a subordinate of the other, their relationship did not violate the original iteration of the company’s anti-fraternization policy. In 2016, the HR manager’s supervisor resigned for – wait for it – having an office romance with a subordinate! The female HR manager applied for the vacated position, at which time the HR manager and plant manager admitted to their relationship. The HR manager was ultimately passed over for the promotion (not by her boyfriend plant manager) and transferred to a different facility so that she and her paramour would not be working together.
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The National Labor Relations Board has now addressed the use of mandatory arbitration agreements following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis, which upheld the enforceability of arbitration agreements containing waivers of the right to bring class or collective actions over employment-related disputes, rejecting the NLRB’s then-position that such waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as discussed in our prior E-lert.
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A more conservative Supreme Court than we’ve seen in recent history is poised to consider whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a trio of cases in the 2019-2020 term, which begins in October. We previously wrote on this topic here as the Circuit split was developing.

Not even the federal government tasked with enforcing employment discrimination laws agrees on whether Title VII covers sexual orientation. The Department of Justice reversed course during the Trump administration and now takes the position that sexual orientation is not covered, whereas the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is holding firm to its position, first adopted in 2015, that sexual orientation is covered, as is gender identity. Additionally, under an Executive Order signed by President Obama (not yet rescinded by President Trump) and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, federal contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to (and separate from) sex.
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