Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Feb 01, 2012

NLRB ushers in 2012 with a bang

Labor Relations 

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Things have been hopping at the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that enforces workers’ rights to collectively band together on issues related to their wages, hours, and working conditions. Here are some highlights of recent developments:

  • The Board is now back up to a full complement of five members, due to President Obama appointing three new members while the Senate was in recess. The appointments are being challenged in court but for now the Board is up and running.
  • The Board ruled that it is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to require workers to sign arbitration agreements that would prevent them from joining other workers in class-action arbitration proceedings or lawsuits. This issue is significant for non-union employers that try to reduce their risks of employment litigation by requiring new hires to sign mandatory arbitration agreements (D.R. Horton, Inc., NLRB, Jan. 2012).
  • The efforts of “field supervisors” to encourage workers to vote for a union (unbeknownst to the company) didn’t taint the union’s eventual election win because the supervisors didn’t really have enough authority to speak on management’s behalf, ruled the Board (DIRECTV US. DIRECTV Holdings LLC, NLRB, Dec. 2011).
  • A union’s proposal to hold an election to represent a subset of technical workers at a shipyard for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines (223 out of approximately 2,400 technical workers) was given the green light. The Board, following its groundbreaking decision in Specialty Healthcare (Aug. 2011), found that the workers shared a common department and a common obligation to independently monitor radiation levels, and the employer wasn’t able to demonstrate that all 2,400 technical workers shared an overwhelming community of interest (Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc., NLRB, Dec. 2011).

We anticipate that the Board will continue to be very active this year. If you have any questions about how these developments may affect your organization, contact your Vigilant staff representative.

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