Category: Labor

Reopening Considerations for New Jersey: What Employers Need to Know About OSHA

As New Jersey begins to reopen under Governor Murphy’s reopening plan and more employees prepare to return to their physical workplaces, employers must continue to navigate a myriad of federal, state, and local guidance regarding how to best protect their workforces and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While many employers, particularly those outside of the construction industry, may not be used to regular dealings with the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all employers must consider OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidelines as they prepare reopening plans. While OSHA’s reopening guidance is advisory in nature, employers should remember that the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (“OSH Act”) General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1)) requires all employers to provide employees with workplaces that are free from recognized harms that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm, which could include exposure to COVID-19. Thus, employers should be careful to ensure that their reopening plans comply with OSHA’s guidelines (along with more stringent state or local guidelines if they exist). The OSHA Guidelines categorize risk of worker exposure to COVID-19 from low to very high and lay out specific measures of protection that are recommended at each risk level. Employers should consult this portion of the Guidelines for specific guidance. The Guidelines also outline more...

The National Labor Relations Act and COVID-19

One law that has not received much attention in the midst of COVID-19 is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA is a federal law that governs labor relations for most private sector employers in the United States. The statute is enforced and interpreted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is headquartered in Washington, DC and has regional offices throughout the country. The NLRA provides employees with various rights, including the right to engage in protected concerted activity, the right to join and to refrain from joining a labor union, and the right to have a union collectively bargain their terms and conditions of their employment. As recent developments demonstrate, both union and non-union employers should keep the NLRA in mind when conducting their workforce planning. Protected Concerted Activity The NLRA protects employees who engage in protected concerted activity. Generally speaking, this means that employees have the right to band together to demand better working conditions with or without a union. Concerns that employees raise about health and safety issues at work, which very well may include COVID-19-related concerns, could constitute protected concerted activity entitling employees to protection. See, e.g., Contemporary Cars, Inc. v. NLRB, 814 F.3d 859 (7th Cir. 2016) (concern employees raised with manager about coworker’s failure to wash hands...

New Jersey Call Center Jobs Act: Potential Headaches for Employers

On January 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Call Center Jobs Act (“Act”). A copy of the Act may be found here. The new law, designed to provide protection to call center employees in the State, includes strict notice requirements along with penalties for New Jersey employers relocating a call center overseas, or transferring call center operations out of state. Under the Act, New Jersey call centers that employ at least 50 full-time employees or at least 50 workers who in the aggregate work 1,500 or more hours per week (excluding overtime) must maintain staffing levels capable of handling at least 65% of the employer’s customer volume of telephone calls, emails, or “other electronic communications” (“customer communications”) when measured against the previous six month average volume of communications originating from New Jersey callers or locations. If a call center’s staffing level falls below the required minimum levels, the employer must immediately notify the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development (“Commissioner”). In addition, any employer that relocates a call center, or transfers one or more of its operations comprising at least 20% of the call center’s total volume of customer communications as measured against the previous 12 month average volume to a foreign country, must notify the Commissioner 90 days...

Recent NLRB Decision Helps Employees, Hurts Unions

On March 1, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision in United Nurses and Allied Professionals (Kent Hosp.), 367 NLRB No. 94 (2019) addressing the rights of individuals in collective-bargaining units who are subject to union-security requirements and elect not to be union members. The Board held that unions cannot charge these individuals for lobbying activities because such activities are not needed for unions to perform their statutory representational duties (i.e., collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment). Additionally, the NLRB held that unions must provide these individuals with independent verification that the financial information it shares with them about union expenditures to justify their non-member charges has been properly audited. The decision came on the heels of a memorandum issued by the Board’s General Counsel, which addressed unions’ duties to notify employees in collective-bargaining units of their right to be non-members, pay reduced charges, and revoke dues authorization checkoffs on their specific anniversary and/or contract expiration dates. The union in Kent Hosp. represented a group of registered nurses. Some of those nurses resigned their union membership and objected to the union charging them for lobbying activities. Such individuals are sometimes referred to as Beck objectors in light of a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Commc’ns Workers v....

NLRB Vacates Recent Joint Employer Decision

On February 26, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rescinded its recent 3-2 decision in Hy-Brand Indus. Contractors, Ltd., 365 NLRB No. 156 (2017), which had restored the traditional standard for determining when multiple entities are joint employers under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Board’s action stemmed from a determination by the NLRB’s Designated Agency Ethics Official that one of the Board Members who voted in favor of the Hy-Brand decision should not have participated in that decision. The vacatur of the Hy-Brand decision is a setback for the business community. As we previously reported, the Hy-Brand decision overruled the NLRB’s controversial joint employer decision in Browning-Ferris Indus. of Cal., Inc. d/b/a BFI Newby Island Recyclery, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015) and restored the decades-old standard that required an entity to actually exercise direct and immediate control over another entity’s essential employment conditions and terms to be a joint employer. In Browning-Ferris, the Board decided that two or more entities could be jointly liable under the NLRA if one of the entities merely reserves the right to indirectly control essential employment conditions and terms of another entity. Once again, this funky joint employer standard as set forth in Browning-Ferris is NLRB law. In a memorandum dated February 9, 2018, the Board’s Inspector General, David P....

President Trump Nominates Fifth Board Member to Round Out NLRB

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump nominated management-side labor attorney, John F. Ring, to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This is a significant nomination because, if Mr. Ring receives Senate approval, the Board will once again be poised to revisit pro-union actions that the NLRB took under the prior administration. This is good news for the business community. Last month, a fully-constituted five member Board took several actions that began a much anticipated releveling of the playing field between Big Labor and Corporate America in the aftermath of profound pro-union actions. Last month’s actions included decisions restoring traditional standards for deciding what constitutes an “appropriate collective bargaining unit” and when two or more entities are “joint employers.” These changes were welcomed by the business community because they provide a more balanced approach to deciding these issues. Shortly after the NLRB’s actions last month, the term of then-Chairman Philip A. Miscimarra expired, leaving one seat at the Board open and the NLRB presumably split two-to-two on a host of additional controversial pro-union actions taken by the Board under the prior administration. (Those actions include the propriety of the NLRB’s “quickie” election rule and a decision giving employees a presumptive right to use their employers’ email systems for non-business purposes.) Two of the current Board Members, Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren...

NLRB Gives Employers Several Reasons to Be Jolly This Holiday Season

December 2017 has been one for the labor law community to remember. We have seen a wintry flurry of actions by the newly-constituted National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has begun a much anticipated releveling of the playing field between Big Labor and Corporate America in the aftermath of profound pro-union actions under the prior administration. On the heels of an instructive and potentially predictive memorandum issued by the Board’s new General Counsel, the NLRB raised questions about the 2014 “quickie” election rule and issued a number of decisions setting forth more neutral standards for analyzing significant legal issues under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), including: an administrative law judge’s ability to accept a charged party’s proposed settlement terms; when multiple employers should be deemed “joint employers” under the NLRA; an employer’s ability to take unilateral action consistent with its past practices; the legality of workplace rules that do not expressly prohibit concerted activities protected by the NLRA; and appropriate collective bargaining units. New NLRB General Counsel’s First Memorandum On December 1, 2017, the NLRB’s new General Counsel, Peter B. Robb, issued a memorandum leaving little doubt that he has a very different view of the NLRA than his predecessor on several key issues. In the memorandum, the General Counsel—who is responsible for investigating and prosecuting unfair labor...

Senate Approves Trump’s Pick for NLRB General Counsel

This week, the United States Senate approved President Donald Trump’s nomination of Peter B. Robb to be the next General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. The move is a key step toward releveling the playing field between Big Labor and Corporate America in the aftermath of profound pro-union actions by the prior administration, including its NLRB General Counsel. The job of General Counsel is a significant one at the Board. The General Counsel is responsible for investigating and prosecuting unfair labor practice cases and supervising the regional offices in their processing of cases. As a result, the General Counsel has control over the types of cases and legal theories that make their way to the NLRB for decisions. The prior General Counsel, Richard F. Griffin, Jr., interpreted the National Labor Relations Act in ways that subjected employers to labor law liabilities where none historically existed. This included arguing that individuals better classified as college students and independent contractors were statutory employees, neutral workplace policies were unlawful, and distinct entities in a business relationships were joint employers. Griffin’s term expired last month and Jennifer A. Abruzzo, the NLRB’s Deputy General Counsel, has been serving as the Acting General Counsel since that time. As a private practitioner, Robb has been critical of numerous actions by the prior administration,...

New York Employers Mid-Year Review

In 2017, employers in New York encountered several important statutory changes affecting recruitment of applicants and retention of independent contractors. More legal change will come in 2018, warranting a mid-year review of current employment and hiring practices, as well as preparation for next year’s developments. Employers should take the time now to audit current practices and prepare for the imminent future. Pay Equity On May 4, 2017, Local Law 67 was enacted to prohibit all employers in New York City from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history (including current or prior wages, benefits, and other compensation), and from relying on an applicant’s salary history when determining his or her compensation package during the hiring process, including contract negotiations. The law applies to both public and private employers and employment agencies, and to their employees and agents (collectively, “employers”). Employers may, however, engage in communications with an applicant about his or her expectations as to salary, benefits, and compensation, including any deferred compensation or unvested equity which the applicant may forfeit as a result of leaving his or her current employer. In addition, if the candidate voluntarily (and without any prompting by the prospective employer), discloses his or her salary history to the prospective employer, the employer may consider salary history in determining compensation for the applicant,...

Do You Like What You’re Reading? Rate Our Blog: The ABA Journal’s “Web 100” Award

Thank you for visiting the Gibbons Employment Law Alert blog! Content on our site, authored by members of the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department, discusses employment and human resources issues and news within the legal and business industries. How are we doing? To review our blog and nominate the Gibbons Employment Law Alert for this year’s ABA Journal’s “Web 100” award, please visit abajournal.com/blawgs/web100 and share why you are a “fan” of our site (Please note: the voting process closes on Sunday, July 30). Thank you in advance for your support.